US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to Meet Chinese Counterpart in Singapore Amid Taiwan Tension

World Defense

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to Meet Chinese Counterpart in Singapore Amid Taiwan Tension

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and China's Defence Minister Dong Jun will meet in Singapore during the Shangri-La Dialogue to discuss regional security and strengthen military communication. This follows their first high-level virtual talks last month amid ongoing tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to meet China's Defence Minister Dong Jun next week in Singapore. This face-to-face meeting, announced by the Pentagon on Friday, will take place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-level defence summit in the Asia-Pacific region.

The meeting follows their first video call last month, marking the first high-level military contact between the two nations in over two years. Their virtual talks in April covered critical topics such as defence relations, regional and global security issues, the South China Sea, Russia's war against Ukraine, North Korea's provocations, the Taiwan Strait, and US-China defence relations.

The Pentagon did not provide specific details about the upcoming meeting but highlighted that Austin’s trip to Singapore and Cambodia aims to strengthen US relationships with allies and partners, supporting a shared vision for regional peace, stability, and deterrence.

Austin will also deliver plenary remarks during the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue, starting on May 31. The forum will feature ministers and government officials from over 50 countries.

In a related update, Austin is scheduled to undergo a medical procedure for bladder issues on Friday evening. The Pentagon clarified that this procedure is not related to his previous cancer diagnosis.

Military communication between the US and China resumed following a meeting between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden in San Francisco in November. Despite this, tensions remain, with the US deepening ties with several of China's neighbors.

Earlier this month, the US formed a strategic coalition called “Squad” to counter China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. On May 2, Austin met with his counterparts from Australia, Japan, and the Philippines in Hawaii. They discussed conducting more maritime exercises and extending greater security assistance to the Philippines.

The first “Squad” defence ministers meeting also took place during the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2023. Last month, the four nations conducted joint maritime patrols amid ongoing tensions between Manila and Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The US, Japan, and Australia are also collaborating on a new air missile defence network. This trilateral cooperation was further discussed during a meeting between US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the White House on April 12. The US reaffirmed its defence commitments to its allies amid increasing pressure from China in the contentious region.

China claims over 80 percent of the South China Sea, which overlaps with claims by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Recent months have seen several naval confrontations between Chinese and Philippine forces near disputed areas such as Scarborough Shoal.

To counterbalance China's influence in the Indo-Pacific, the US leads several alliances and cooperation blocs, including the Quad (with Australia, India, and Japan) and AUKUS (a defence pact among Australia, the UK, and the US).

This high-level meeting between Austin and Dong underscores the ongoing strategic maneuvers in the region and the importance of dialogue in addressing complex security issues.

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