US, China likely to trade blows at Asia security meeting

SINGAPORE, June 9 (Reuters) – The United States and China are set to use Asia’s highest security meeting this week to trade blows on everything from Taiwan sovereignty to war in Ukraine, although the two parties have indicated their willingness to discuss the management of differences.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, which attracts high-level military officials, diplomats and arms manufacturers from around the world, will take place June 10-12 in Singapore, the first time the event has been held since 2019 after been postponed twice due to COVID-19[FEMININE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address the meeting in a virtual session, organizers said.

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On the sidelines of the summit, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe are expected to hold their first face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office.

“We expect, from our perspective, that the substance of this meeting will focus on managing competition in regional and global issues,” a senior US official said.

Chinese media also said Beijing would use the meeting to discuss cooperation with the United States.

Austin and Wei will likely then use speeches over the weekend to reaffirm their commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, while delivering pointed remarks in each other’s direction.

Relations between China and the United States have been strained in recent months, with the world’s two largest economies clashing over everything from Chinese belligerence towards Taiwan, its military activity in the South China Sea and attempts to Beijing to expand its influence in the Pacific region.

“The key issue this year will inevitably be the competitive relationship between the United States and China,” said Meia Nouwens, senior fellow for Chinese defense policy and military modernization at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the think tank organizing the event.

“There is a new sense of urgency regarding the People’s Liberation Army’s ongoing modernization and assertiveness that we have seen from China over the past two years.”

Although the summit will focus on Asian security issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will remain at the center of discussions. The conflict, which has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and reduced cities to rubble, entered its 100th day last week.

Ukraine will send a delegation to the meeting but the Russians will not attend, according to a source familiar with the list of participants.

“American participants will take the opportunity to critique China’s strategic partnership with Russia,” said Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“We will see some conclusions from the China-Russia partnership as a coalition of autocracies… China will defend its relationship with Russia, its position and its policy in response to Ukraine.”

“SWEEP OUT”

With US military and political capital absorbed by the war in Ukraine, Austin will be under pressure to convince China’s rivals in Asia that they can count on Washington.

“They say China is a huge threat and they even say it’s an acute threat. Yet it seems like a lot of attention and resources are basically going to Europe,” Elbridge Colby said. , a former senior Pentagon official. “It’s not about words, it’s about walking the walk.”

Bilateral talks between the United States and China, and much of the conference, will likely focus on Taiwan.

China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military activity near the island over the past two years, responding to what it calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

“The United States will swing specifically on Taiwan, but also China’s growing assertiveness throughout the Indo-Pacific,” said Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, a think tank .

This month, Biden said the United States would get involved militarily if China attacked Taiwan, although the administration has since clarified that US policy on the issue has not changed and that Washington does not support the move. independence of Taiwan.

Washington has long had a policy of strategic ambiguity about whether it will militarily defend Taiwan.

The Pacific islands have also emerged as a key front in Washington’s strategic competition with China.

Biden’s special envoy is due to visit the Marshall Islands next week amid growing US concerns about China’s efforts to expand its influence in the region. Last week, a virtual meeting of 10 Pacific foreign ministers hosted by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Fiji agreed to postpone consideration of a Chinese proposal for a trade and security pact. Read more

The growing military threat posed by North Korea, which has conducted at least 18 rounds of weapons tests this year, also underscores the evolution of its nuclear and missile arsenals.

South Korean, American and Japanese officials said on Wednesday that recent North Korean missile tests were “serious and unlawful” provocations. Read more

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will open the conference on Friday with a keynote speech in which he is expected to call for peaceful resolutions to disputes in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Reporting Idrees Ali and Chen Lin; written by Joe Brock; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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