The US accepted China’s invitation to attend a top security forum in Beijing this month, another sign that ties between the world’s two-largest economies are starting to normalize.
(Bloomberg) — The US accepted China’s invitation to attend a top security forum in Beijing this month, another sign that ties between the world’s two-largest economies are starting to normalize.
The Department of Defense said it responded to China’s invitation to attend the Beijing Xiangshan Forum with an intent to participate “at a level consistent with past precedent,” without specifying which officials would attend.
The Pentagon “welcomes the opportunity to engage with PLA representatives” at the event, the department said in a statement Thursday, using an acronym for the People’s Liberation Army. Reuters earlier reported that China invited US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to the gathering, citing three people it didn’t identify, but added that the Pentagon chief won’t be taking part.
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 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. 29-31. 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 it didn’t identify, 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 General Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Staff Department oversees PLA operations, intelligence and training.
–With assistance from Colum Murphy.
(Adds Pentagon statement from second paragraph. An earlier version of the story corrected the name of chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
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