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.
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.