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Home / WORLD / ‘Little chance’ China would agree to top-level talks with US – FT

‘Little chance’ China would agree to top-level talks with US – FT

China’s newly appointed defense minister is highly unlikely to meet his US counterpart in Singapore next month due to sanctions that Washington has placed on him over his alleged involvement in the transfer of Russian advanced weapons, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

According to the British newspaper, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is seeking to hold talks with Li Shangfu, who assumed his post in March, at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in June. However, China has reportedly told the US that “there is little chance” of such a meeting taking place.

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Diplomatic engagement is said to be impeded by sanctions that the US imposed on the minister back in 2018, when he was serving as the director of the Equipment Development Department. The State Department claimed Li was involved in the transfer of Su-35 fighter jets and material related to S-400 air-defense systems from Russia to China.

According to the Financial Times’ sources, while Washington noted that the restrictions would not prevent the defense chiefs from meeting in a third country, “it would be almost impossible” for China to agree to such talks while the sanctions remain in place. At the same time, Washington is said to be reluctant to lift those measures.

In April, the Pentagon said China had been refusing to engage with both Austin and the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. A month earlier, the department claimed that top US and Chinese defense officials had not spoken since November.

The communications breakdown between the two powers stems from a number of hot issues in bilateral relations, including the US decision to shoot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over America in early February. China has insisted that the object was a “civilian airship” that strayed into US airspace due to force majeure circumstances.

Another point of contention hinges on the Sino-US standoff over Taiwan. China considers the breakaway island to be sovereign Chinese territory. While Washington does not maintain official diplomatic ties with Taipei, it has supplied the local government with defensive weaponry. The tensions were also fueled by the visit of former US house speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last summer, which Beijing viewed as a violation of the ‘One China’ policy.

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