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The US Secretary of Defense “regrets” his Chinese counterpart’s refusal to meet him


US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, during a visit to Tokyo Thursday, expressed his “regret” at his Chinese counterpart Li Changfu’s refusal to meet with him this week, especially in light of the recent “provocative” maneuvers carried out by Chinese fighter jets near US military aircraft.

“I think that’s unfortunate,” Austin told reporters in Tokyo, warning that after recent “provocative interceptions” by Chinese fighter jets, he was more concerned about the possibility of an accident that “could quickly spiral out of control.”

The Pentagon announced Monday that Beijing had rejected a US invitation to hold a meeting between the US and Chinese defense ministers this week on the sidelines of a defense summit in Singapore.

“The People’s Republic of China has informed the United States that it declines an invitation from us in early May for a meeting this week in Singapore between Secretary Austin and Chinese Minister of National Defense Li Changfu,” said Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder in a statement Monday.

For its part, Beijing contented itself with saying through its spokeswoman, “The United States clearly knows the reason for the current difficulties in military communications.”

Austin stopped in Tokyo for a short visit en route to Singapore.

“Worry about an accident that might get out of control”

“They’ve heard me talk many times about the importance of countries that have great capabilities, and the need for them to talk to each other so they can manage crises and prevent things from spiraling out of control unnecessarily,” the US secretary told reporters in the Japanese capital.

He added that China’s “recent provocative interceptions of our aircraft and those of our allies” are “extremely troubling.”

“Hopefully they will change their actions, but since they haven’t done so yet, I’m worried about an accident happening at some point that could spin out of control very quickly.”

On Tuesday, the US military announced that a Chinese military pilot had carried out an “unjustified aggressive maneuver” on Friday near a US military reconnaissance plane that was flying over the South China Sea.

Video footage released showed a fighter jet passing in front of an American plane shaking due to the turbulence caused by the passage of the Chinese fighter.

China responded on Wednesday by accusing the United States of carrying out “provocative and dangerous maneuvers,” stressing that the American reconnaissance plane “deliberately penetrated our training area.”

These events come at a time when the level of tension is rising between Beijing and Washington over issues such as Taiwan and the flight of a Chinese balloon over US territory at the beginning of the year.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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