Singapore, Jun 1 (EFE).- Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu and his Singapore counterpart Ng Eng Hen on Thursday agreed to establish a direct defense and security phone link between their top military commands, amid growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific between China and the United States.
Li met Ng in Singapore in a ceremony in which the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the communications link between the city-state’s permanent defense secretary Chang Heng kee and the People’s Liberation Army’s deputy chief of joint staff Jing Jianfeng.
The initiative has been launched under the defense and security cooperation agreement that the two sides signed in 2019, and is aimed at boosting cooperation and increasing mutual trust, the Singapore defense ministry said in a statement.
The two ministers also discussed regional security issues during the meeting, which comes ahead of the Chinese minister’s participation in the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional security forum hosted by the city-state.
The event is set to be held between Friday and Sunday and will also be attended by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
There has been speculation whether Singapore would witness any interaction between Austin and Li, after Beijing rejected Washington’s proposal for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the forum.
Tensions between the US and China have shot up after Washington detected an alleged “spy balloon” flying over its territory in late January and shot it down over the Atlantic on Feb. 4.
Singapore’s Shangri La Dialogue, which is seen as a neutral meeting place between different world powers, has been used in the past by Beijing and Washington to exchange views and improve communication in defense matters.
Last year, it served as the venue for the first meeting between Austin and Li’s predecessor Wei Fenghe. EFE