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Austin Heads to Singapore, Set For First In-Person Meeting With Chinese Counterpart

© AP Photo / Manuel Balce CenetaFILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 31, 2023.
FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 31, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.05.2024
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to have his first face-to-face meeting with his Chinese counterpart Admiral Dong Jun at a major defense conference in Singapore this week amid a broader effort to restore bilateral military ties between the two countries.
Austin held a video teleconference with Dong on April 16, but the two defense ministers will meet in person for the first time on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore being held May 31 to June 2.
The last time defense chiefs from the two countries met was in November 2022, when Austin met Dong's predecessor, then-Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
China suspended military-to-military dialogue with the US in 2022 amid soaring tensions over then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
Though US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed last November to restore some military-to-military communications, issues including Taiwan and the South China Sea remain a source of sharp dispute between the two nations.
Earlier this week, the State Department's China coordinator lambasted a senior Chinese diplomat over Beijing's "dangerous and destabilizing" actions in the South China Sea and military actions near Taiwan, while China's Foreign Ministry demanded that the US stop playing the "Taiwan card."
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong speaks during the G20 Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) and Finance & Central Bank Deputies (FCBD) meetings, at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar on July 16, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.08.2023
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A Pentagon spokesperson on Wednesday declined to reveal what key topics will be discussed during Austin's meeting with Dong, but the last time the two spoke, they covered a range of security-related topics including Taiwan, the South China Sea, North Korea and Ukraine.
Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu in comments to Sputnik noted that the two militaries have conducted a series of exchanges and cooperation aimed at stabilizing and improving the bilateral relationship.
Beijing hopes the US side will work with the Chinese government in good faith to avoid conflict and confrontation, he added.
At the summit in Singapore, Austin will also participate in a series of other meetings, including with Singapore's new Prime Minister Lawerence Wong and other senior Singaporean officials. He will also engage in a multilateral meeting with his counterparts from Southeast Asia, and a Trilateral Ministerial Meeting (TMM) with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea.
Austin is also scheduled to travel to France and Cambodia after his stop in Singapore.
While in Cambodia, Austin will meet with senior government officials.
Austin will conclude his trip in France to participate in several commemorative events for the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.
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