Australian and Chinese defense ministers hold historic meeting to end diplomatic freeze

The defense chiefs of Australia and China have met for the first time in almost three years for an individual meeting, ending a two-year diplomatic freeze between Canberra and Beijing.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles said his meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Singapore was “important”, but Australia would take its relationship with China “step by step”.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles speaks at a press conference at the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, the annual Asian Defense and Security Forum in Singapore. (AP)

“China is our biggest trading partner and we value a productive relationship, this is a point we have made for a long time,” Marles said.

“That said, we have many national interests and we will not give up on them in the strongest possible terms described today.

“While there is a change of tone, there is absolutely no change in the substance of Australia’s national interest.”

Marles said his concern was to ensure that the Indo-Pacific countries “do not put themselves in a position of increased militarization.”

“It was a full and frank discussion that we believe is a very important first step,” he said.

Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe speaks at a plenary session during the 19th Shangri-la Dialogue at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Asia’s annual defense and security forum. Singapore. (AP)

“Australia’s relationship with China is complex and it is precisely because of this complexity that it is really important and that we are in dialogue right now.”

Marles is at the Shangri-La Dialogue Defense Summit.

The director of the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, Michael Shoebridge, said China had a “credibility issue”.

“Really, diplomacy can’t be a game of pretending,” he said.

“And when there’s such a gap between China’s actions and words, it’s a problem.”

A P-8 Poseidon aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force was intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet, according to the Department of Defense. (Department of Defense)

He said Washington sought to advance its own interests “in the guise of multilateralism.”

Wei attacked U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and dismissed his “defamatory accusation” a day before China was causing instability with his claim to the autonomous island of Taiwan and his military activity. increased in the area.

Austin had stressed the need for multilateral partnerships with the Indo-Pacific nations, which Wei suggested was an attempt to get China to a corner.

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