Lost horizon

The AP reports on the the Shangri-La Dialogue, “an annual forum bringing together top defense officials, diplomats and leaders.” Secretary of Defense Austin attended, as did General Li Shangfu, China’s State Councilor and Minister of National Defense. I gather he is is Austin’s Chinese counterpart.

Despite the “dialogue” advertised in Shangri-La, Li Shangfu let China’s Navy do the talking in the Taiwan Strait over the weekend of the conference (the link is to the story by NBC News). On Sunday the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon had a close encounter of the CCP kind.

The timing doesn’t seem like a coincidence. It will take someone smarter and more knowledgeable than I am to count the number of ways that this close encounter expresses the regime’s disrespect of the Biden administration, but I would guess the answer is more than one.

According to the NBC News story, Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that China’s actions were lawful and that the U.S. “needs to reflect on the mistakes they made.”

Li Shangu also weighed in. “We must prevent attempts (by those) who want to use freedom of navigation and innocent passage as pretexts to exercise hegemony of navigation,” said Li — according to this story in the Japan Times, “after a fiery speech before top defense officials at the conference in Singapore.”

UPDATE: Former Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon writes Semafor’s Security newsletter. This note from today’s newsletter amplifies my point here:

Tensions between the U.S. and China overshadowed much of the conversation at the Shangri-La Dialogue — Asia’s premier security summit — after Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu rejected private talks with his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin. In separate speeches, ministers from Indonesia, Japan, and Australia all cautioned that unresolved matters between Washington and Beijing could lead to further “catastrophe” — even “war” — in Asia. In brighter news, U.S. and Chinese diplomats held “candid and productive discussions” during a meeting in Beijing, according to the State Department.

I greatly respected Solomon’s work at the Journal. Readers can sign up for any of Semafor’s several free newsletters here.

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