Australian defense minister meets with Chinese counterpart, ending two-year diplomatic freeze

Defense Secretary Richard Marles has held a one-on-one meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Singapore, officially ending a two-year diplomatic freeze between Canberra and Beijing.

Marles’ meeting with General Wei Fenghe took place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Security Summit and marked the first high-level contact with Australia’s largest trading partner since January 2020.

Outraged by the Morrison government’s call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, China cut ties with Canberra at the political level and imposed billions of dollars in trade strikes on Australian exports.

Marles described the meeting as a “candid and full-blown exchange” in which he addressed a number of concerns for Australia, including China’s recent interception of an Australian Air Force plane over the South China Sea.

“This was an important meeting between two countries of importance during the Indo-Pacific meeting,” he said.

“It was a crucial first step.

Alarm raised at construction of South China Sea

The meeting took place against a backdrop of increasing Beijing aggression in the South China Sea.

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