Report: China, U.S. Defense Chiefs May Come Face to Face in Singapore

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin may hold an in-person meeting on the sidelines of the “Shangri-La Dialogue” security summit in Singapore later this week, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Wednesday citing an anonymous source close to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“A source close to the People’s Liberation Army said Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and his American counterpart Lloyd Austin were expected to hold their first in-person meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, which starts on Friday [June 10],” the Hong Kong-based newspaper reported.

China’s state-run Global Times also suggested Wednesday that Wei and Austin may hold face-to-face talks during the Shangri-La Dialogue, while noting that neither side had officially confirmed such a meeting at press time on June 8.

“Their meeting, if it takes place, shall showcase a basic agreement on managing disputes and willingness to enhance communication,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military analyst and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

The Shangri-La Dialogue is an intergovernmental security forum attended by heads of state, defense ministers, and military leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region. The summit is a “unique meeting where ministers debate the region’s most pressing security challenges, engage in important bilateral talks and come up with fresh approaches together,” according to the summit’s website.

International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think tank, organizes the dialogue annually at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel, which is the forum’s namesake. This year’s Shangri-La Dialogue is the first since 2019 after the event was canceled two years in a row due to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. The symposium will take place from June 10 to June 12.

“US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III will deliver a major speech on US defence policy in the Indo-Pacific at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday 11 June. Meanwhile, Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe’s address will take place on Sunday 12 June 2022,” the event’s website states.

A press release advertising Wei’s June 12 speech says he plans to discuss “China’s vision for regional order in the Asia-Pacific,” while a press release for Austin‘s June 11 speech says he will deliver “a major policy speech on US defence policy in the Indo-Pacific.”

Wei and Austin spoke to each other for the first time over the telephone on April 20. The conversation came after an initial attempt at connecting the two defense chiefs by phone “was stalled by a protocol wrangle in which Austin refused to speak to Wei, and requested to talk to Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the PLA’s Central Military Commission,” the SCMP reported on June 7.

Reuters provided a U.S. perspective on the telephone bungle, reporting that “Austin, despite multiple attempts, had been unable to talk with Chinese military leaders until Wednesday [April 20],” while adding that the call lasted about 45 minutes.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.