The US has accepted China’s invitation to attend a top annual security forum in Beijing this month, according to Reuters, a sign ties between the world’s two-largest economies are starting to normalize.
(Bloomberg) — The US has accepted China’s invitation to attend a top annual security forum in Beijing this month, according to Reuters, a sign ties between the world’s two-largest economies are starting to normalize.
The Department of Defense said it had responded to China’s August invitation to attend the Beijing Xiangshan Forum “at a level consistent with past precedent,” in a statement to Reuters, without specifying which officials would attend.
China has invited US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to the gathering of military officials, Reuters added, citing three unidentified persons familiar with the matter. The US will not send Austin to the event, however, the report said, without elaborating.
President Xi Jinping’s government froze high-level military talks with the US in August 2022 after then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own territory.
Since then, Beijing has called on the US to lift sanctions on its defense minister, Li Shangfu, citing that as a condition for the resumption of talks. Li is now reportedly under probe and stripped of his duties, removing a major roadblock for top-level military ties.
China has not commented on Li’s case. China’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately reply to questions on whether Austin had been invited to the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, and if Li would also attend.
A US presence at the Chinese security forum would mark the latest sign of warming relations between the superpowers. President Joe Biden has dispatched a flurry of cabinet-level officials to Beijing since June to smooth ties, ahead of an expected leaders’ meeting with Xi next month in San Francisco.
When the forum was last held in 2019, before being paused for several years during the pandemic, the US sent a delegation led by then-US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Chad Sbragia.
The Beijing Xiangshan Forum, styled as China’s answer to Singapore’s Shangri-la Dialogue, is set to be held from Oct. 29 to 31. It’s typically opened by the Asian nation’s defense minister, though Li has not been seen in public since Aug 29.
Separately, Reuters reported that General Liu Zhenli is the top contender to replace Li, citing five people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify, and adding that the change could come before the Xiangshan Forum.
Liu is chief of the People Liberation Army’s Joint Staff Department, effectively making him the counterpart of Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Staff Department oversees PLA operations, intelligence and training.
–With assistance from Colum Murphy.
(Updates with report on potential new defense minister.)
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