Jakarta, Nov 16 (EFE).- United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and senior Chinese army official Jing Jianfeng attended a Thursday meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, amid the resumption of communications between the US and China’s armed forces.
Austin and Jing participated in the defense meeting of ASEAN (comprising Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), which on Thursday expanded the meetings to partners such as the US, China and Russia.
All eyes are on a possible meeting on the sidelines of the forum between Austin and Jing, China’s Central Military Commission vice president, who is in Jakarta with Beijing having to yet name a replacement for Defense Minister Li Shangfu. The official was dismissed in October after being out of public sight for about two months.
A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Jakarta told EFE that the meeting with Jing is not part of Austin’s schedule, although it is not ruled out that it occurs off the agenda.
An eventual exchange would illustrate one of the great achievements of the meeting Wednesday in San Francisco between US President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who agreed to reestablish communications between their armed forces.
These were broken more than a year ago, after the controversial visit of then-US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August 2022 to Taiwan – a self-governed island that Beijing does not rule out invading and that Washington would defend in principle.
Adding to the strained relationship were the 2018 US sanctions on Li, accused of purchasing weapons from the Russian state company Rosoboronexport.
Among other matters, Biden and Xi agreed Wednesday in San Francisco that there would be meetings between their defense ministers, which could lead to Austin waiting for a new Chinese defense chief to be named before a potential encounter.
The two powers are at odds over issues such as Taiwan, disagreements over the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the South China Sea, with territorial conflicts between China and ASEAN countries such as the Philippines. EFE