Prior to the annual security summit in Singapore, China reportedly rejected a meeting request from senior U.S. defense officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
In light of heightened tensions between the two giants, American officials earlier this month suggested that Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu meet outside of the Singapore event.
Pentagon officials emphasize that although Li is subject to U.S. sanctions, this does not bar him from meeting with Austin.
“The Department believes strongly in the importance of maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication between Washington and Beijing to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.
Overnight, China informed the United States of its intention to cancel the meeting.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China earlier this year due to controversy over a surveillance balloon that flew into American airspace.
That balloon was eventually shot down by the military above the Carolina coast. There has not yet been a new date set for the meeting with Blinken.
The military buildup in the South China Sea and Taiwan’s position as an independent island that China claims sovereignty over have put special strain on relations.