US requests meeting between defense secretary and Chinese counterpart

US Defense Department officials say they have asked China to arrange a meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu during an Asian security forum next month.

US Assistance Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner made the comment at an event in Washington on Thursday.

Secretary Austin is scheduled to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore from June 2. Chinese Defense Minister Li may also attend.

Ratner said Austin and his department initiated a request to meet with Li at the forum.

Ratner added that Austin has said many times he believes in the importance of open lines of communication with China. He said it is important to "prevent misperception, miscalculation and crises from spinning out of control."

Li has been placed under US sanctions since 2018 for his alleged involvement in the purchase of weapons including missile systems from Russia.

Ratner said the sanctions have no legal or technical bearing on whether or not Li is able to meet with Austin.

He said China has yet to respond to the US request.