US, China defense ministers to focus on ‘managing competition’ at meeting

Relations between China and the US have been tense with the world’s two largest economies clashing over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to meet Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe later this month in Singapore and they are expected to focus on managing competition, a senior US official said on Friday.

Relations between China and the United States have been tense with the world’s two largest economies clashing over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.

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The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Beijing had formally requested a meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit.

While this would be the first in-person meeting between the two ministers, it is common for US and Chinese defense leaders to meet on the sidelines of the summit and Austin and Wei spoke over the phone in April.

“We expect, from our perspective, the substance of that meeting to be focused on managing competition in regional and global issues,” the official said.

Despite the tensions and heated rhetoric, US military officials have long sought to have open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts to be able to mitigate potential flare-ups or deal with any accidents.

Read more: China says ‘firmly’ opposes US trade initiative with Taiwan

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