Scheduled to last only 30 minutes, it is the first time Austin and Wei have met in person. They have spoken only once on the phone in late April in a call that lasted approximately 45 minutes.
Before the meeting, a US defense official said Washington would try to establish lines of communication at the highest levels of the militaries as a mechanism to avoid situations that would result in conflict between the two Pacific powers. The US also wants to see communication mechanisms between commanders at the theater level, officials said.
“This has been a priority for us in the defense relationship,” the official said.
Australia — one of America’s closest allies in the Indo-Pacific — condemned Beijing when a Chinese fighter jet released chaff and flares near an Australian surveillance plane late last month.
After a congressional delegation visited Taiwan late last month, the Chinese Embassy in Washington urged the US to “avoid sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” according to a statement from the embassy. That same week, China sent 30 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, the highest daily figure in four months.
“The Taiwan issue will figure prominently in all of the secretary’s conversations,” the senior defense official said.
Austin is scheduled to address the conference in one of the keynote speeches at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday morning, followed by a speech by Wei on Sunday morning.