SINGAPORE: China's defence minister will speak at an Asia defence forum in Singapore, the organiser said on Monday (May 20), the first time in eight years that Beijing has been represented at this level at the gathering and at a time when China-US ties are strained over trade and security.
Defence Minister Wei Fenghe will deliver a speech on Jun 2 at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the first time since 2011 that a Chinese defence minister will be at the forum, having in recent years sent lower level officials.
"In a highly anticipated speech, General Wei Fenghe will speak on China's role in the Indo-Pacific at a pivotal time for the region," the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a media release.
The annual dialogue brings together defence ministers and military chiefs from Asia-Pacific countries to discuss security challenges in the region.
General Wei's speech will be scheduled a day after US Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan speaks to delegates at the May 31 to Jun 2 gathering.
Tensions between China and the United States have intensified in the past year, both over an ongoing trade war and over the disputed South China Sea and US support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
On Sunday, the United States sent warships close to the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, the latest in a series of "freedom of navigation operations" to anger Beijing.