US, Chinese defence chiefs to meet following Taiwan tension

US, Chinese defence chiefs to meet following Taiwan tension
US, Chinese defence chiefs to meet following Taiwan tension

Hello and welcome to the details of US, Chinese defence chiefs to meet following Taiwan tension and now with the details

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - People read a Chinese newspaper with news coverage of China military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing May 24, 2024. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, May 25 — US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet his Chinese counterpart, the Pentagon announced yesterday, after Beijing carried out war games around Taiwan in a sign to the US-backed democracy’s new leader.

The Pentagon said that Austin would meet Chinese Admiral Dong Jun when they attended the May 31-June 2 Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of defence officials around the world.

China in recent days has surrounded Taiwan with warships and fighter jets in a test of its ability to seize the island, which it claims. The drills follow the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, who has vowed to safeguard self-ruling Taiwan’s democracy.

Austin’s meeting with Dong had been widely expected since Austin spoke to Dong by telephone in April, in what were the first substantive talks between the two powers’ defence chiefs in nearly 18 months.

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President Joe Biden’s administration and China have been stepping up communication to ease friction, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Beijing and Shanghai last month.

But defence talks had lagged behind until Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a resumption of military dialogue during a summit with Biden in California in November.

Austin will also travel next week to Cambodia for talks with defence ministers of the Southeast Asian bloc Asean and end his trip to France, where he will join President Joe Biden in commemorations of the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

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The trip was announced even though Austin late yesterday plans to hand over duties temporarily to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, due to his latest medical procedure.

Austin, a key figure in Western efforts to support Ukraine against a Russian offensive, “will undergo a scheduled, elective, and minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure related to his previously reported bladder issue,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said .

He will be “temporarily unable to perform his functions and duties,” with Hicks briefly serving as acting secretary of defence, Ryder said.

The transparency comes after a furor when Austin vanished from public view for cancer treatment in December and again in January when he suffered complications.

A spotlight-shunning retired general, Austin, 70, said later that he was a “pretty private guy” and did not want to burden others with his problems.

But Biden’s Republican rivals went on the attack after it was revealed that Austin did not inform the chain of command.

Austin widely informed the government and public when he returned to the hospital in February for the bladder issue connected with Friday’s procedure. — AFP

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