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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be meeting with Chinese Admiral Dong Jun at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual gathering of defense officials from around the world. This meeting comes after China conducted war games around Taiwan in a show of force to the US-backed democracy. China’s recent activities around Taiwan, which it claims as its own, come after the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, who has promised to protect Taiwan’s democracy.

The meeting between Austin and Dong has been anticipated since they spoke on the phone in April, marking the first substantive talks between the defense chiefs of the two countries in nearly 18 months. This meeting is part of the broader efforts by the Biden administration to improve communication with China and reduce tensions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to China and Shanghai is part of this effort to ease friction between the two powers.

The resumption of military dialogue between the US and China was agreed upon during a summit between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden in California in November. This led to Austin’s planned meeting with Dong at the Shangri-La Dialogue. The Pentagon has been actively working on improving relations with China, as seen by Austin’s upcoming trip to Cambodia to meet with ASEAN defense ministers before heading to France with President Biden to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Despite his recent medical procedure, Austin plans to temporarily hand over duties to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, for his upcoming trip. This trip highlights the importance of engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the broader efforts to improve relations with China. As tensions continue to simmer in the region, dialogues and meetings between defense officials play a crucial role in preventing misunderstandings and reducing the risk of conflict. Austin’s meeting with Dong will be closely watched for any signs of progress in reducing tensions between the two countries.

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