The Pentagon has recently announced that China has declined a request from the United States for a meeting between their defense chiefs at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this weekend. The event is an informal gathering of defense officials and analysts from around the world that also creates opportunities for side meetings among defense leaders.
This news comes as tensions between the two countries have reached new highs following the deployment of U.S. naval assets to the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is slated to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday while his Chinese counterpart is scheduled to speak on Sunday. The U.S. has been emphasizing its commitment to “freedom of navigation and overflight” in the South China Sea, as outlined in the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) statement issued on May 21st.
According to the statement, a U.S. RC-135 aircraft was conducting “safe and routine operations” in international airspace in accordance with international law. INDOPACOM went on to call on all countries to use international airspace safely in accordance with international law, and said the United States “will continue to fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows.”
The decline of the U.S.-Chinese bilateral meeting at the Shangri-La Dialogue symbolizes the current state of relations between the two countries in the midst of this recent friction. As the international community watches on, it is important to maintain a watchful eye on future developments from both sides which could have a long-term effect on U.S.-China relations.
In conclusion, we can see that tensions between the United States and China are growing due to several factors, including recent frictions in the South China Sea. The recent decision by China to decline a U.S. request for a bilateral meeting at the Shangri-La Dialogue this weekend further illustrates the strained relationship between the two countries. Hopefully, the two sides can come to an agreement on how to peacefully resolve these issues in order to avoid further escalation. With the eyes of the world watching, there is no room for error.