“The right time to talk is now.”

“The right time to talk is now.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense LLoyd Austin.urged on Saturday from a security forum in Singapore that his country’s Chinese counterpart to sit down for a dialogue to “be able to avoid miscalculations that lead to conflict.”after Peking’s refusal to allow a meeting between the two on the margins of the conference.

“For responsible leaders, the right time to talk is any, is now.”

“For responsible leaders, the right time to speak up is any. The right time to speak up is now,” Austin remarked in a speech delivered at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s most important security forum (June 2-4), in which also participates the Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu.

“A handshake is not enough,” Austin added, alluding to the brief greeting the two exchanged the day before at the Dialogue’s opening dinner, after Beijing on Monday rejecting Washington’s request that the defense chiefs of the two superpowers to hold a bilateral meeting.

One of the main stumbling blocks for the meeting to take place is that Li, who was appointed China’s defense head last March, was sanctioned in 2018 by the United States, accused of buying weaponry from Russian state-owned Rosoboronexport.

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“I am deeply concerned” about China’s refusal, Austin admitted. “I’ll say it over and over again: the great powers must be examples of transparency and accountability. The United States is committed to doing our part.”

Although the meeting between Austin and Li does not appear to be going ahead, high-level contacts between China and the U.S. continue, with U.S. media reporting the day before that CIA Director Bill Burns made a secret trip to China. last month, his first visit to the Asian country since holding the post.

The Pentagon chief also accused China of “continuing to carry out risky maneuvers,” after a Chinese fighter intercepted a suspected U.S. spy plane over the South China Sea on May 26.

“We are determined to keep this region open, peaceful and prosperous. The Indo-Pacific has become an extraordinary example of progress and cooperation,” Austin remarked, stating that the U.S. has “doubled down” on its alliances with partners such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan.

“We do not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will not hesitate in the face of coercion or abuse,” he added, alluding to China, and highlighting especially the case of Taiwan.

“We do not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will not hesitate in the face of coercion or abuse.”

“The U.S. will continue to adamantly oppose a change of the status quo (of Taiwan). by either party,” he said.

China’s defense minister assured Thursday from the Asian city-state that. Peking “absolutely not” renounces force to seize the islandwhich China considers a rebel province since the Kuomintang nationalists retreated there in 1949 after losing the civil war, and which Washington would in principle defend.

The U.S. defense secretary today insisted however that conflict is “neither inevitable nor imminent” and warned that a confrontation in the Taiwan Strait “would be devastating, so we are determined to maintain peace and stability.”

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in New Delhi on April 28, 2023.

Kayleigh Williams