Sunday, July 14, 2024

Austin Meets With Chinese Counterpart in Singapore

Singapore – Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met today (June 10) with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe to discuss U.S.- China defense relations.

The two met on the fringes of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. A senior defense official described the meeting as professional and focused. 

Wei requested the meeting earlier in the week. The meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes but lasted a little less than an hour.

The two men discussed global and regional security issues and the bilateral defense relationship between the United States and China. They spent most of the meeting discussing Taiwan.

On the global and regional security issues, the two discussed North Korea and the challenges in Northeast Asia. They also discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Secretary Austin reiterated the point he made when they spoke on the phone that we were watching the situation very carefully and strongly discouraged China from providing material support to Russia for its war in Ukraine,” the official said.

Austin and Wei discussed the need for crisis communication between the two militaries. Austin urged China’s People’s Liberation Army to participate more proactively in crisis communications and crisis management mechanisms. “General Wei was responsive to that,” the official said.  

U.S. officials see these lines of communications as guardrails to keep both sides from veering off the road toward escalation, the officials said.

The conversations could be at the highest levels of the two defense establishments, but the official believes there will be additional open military channels from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to his counterpart or from the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Austin reiterated to Wei that there is no change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan. He clearly spelled out the U.S. policy, “which is that we are [to] remain committed to our ‘One China’ policy as enumerated in the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, the Three Joint Communiques,” the official said. 

Austin also made it clear that the United States does not support any unilateral changes to the status quo, and the United States does not support Taiwan independence.

Still, the United States also has major concerns about increasing PLA behavior — particularly “unsafe, aggressive, unprofessional behavior,” and U.S. officials are concerned “that the PLA may be attempting to change the status quo through its operational behavior.”

The secretary also read chapter and verse of the Taiwan Relations Act and stressed the part about the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait “being of grave concern” to the United States, the official said.  

Austin told Wei that the United States will continue to provide arms with defensive character to Taiwan as called for under the act. Also contained in the act is language that says “the United States will maintain the capacity to resist any resort to force that threatens the security of the people on Taiwan,” the official said.

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