5 hours ago
image copyrightGetty Images
Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu
According to Reuters, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu suddenly missed a meeting with Vietnamese defense officials last week, citing health reasons.
The Vietnamese government announced at the end of last month that the eighth Vietnam-China border defense friendly exchange event will be held in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam, and Yunnan Province, China, from September 7th to 8th. Lee Shang Phuc will attend together with Vietnam’s Defense Minister Phan Van Giang.
But Reuters quoted two Vietnamese officials as saying that Beijing informed Hanoi days before the event that Ri Shang Phuc would be unable to attend due to “health conditions” and wanted the event to be postponed.
A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Washington was aware of Ri Sang Phuc’s cancellation of a meeting with Vietnamese officials.
The Vietnamese government previously stated that the originally planned activities included holding a welcome ceremony for the Chinese delegation at the Lao Cai International Port, saluting the boundary markers, painting red and adding colors, planting friendship trees, etc.
In the context of the sudden dismissal of former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and the sudden replacement of the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, Li Shangfu’s absence attracted outside attention. He has not been seen in public for more than half a month.
Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, posted publicly last week: “First (Chinese) Foreign Minister Qin Gang disappeared, then the Rocket Force commander disappeared, and now Defense Minister Li Shangfu has not appeared in public for two weeks. “Who will win this unemployment contest? China’s young people or Xi Jinping’s cabinet?”
The Chinese government did not respond to a request for comment. Previously, when asked about Emmanuel’s remarks about Li Shangfu, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said he did not know the situation.
According to the Financial Times, citing multiple U.S. sources familiar with the matter, the U.S. government believes that Lee Sang-bok has been investigated and is unable to perform his duties as secretary of defense. The BBC could not independently verify the claim.
As rumors of Lee Sang-bok’s “disappearance” are rampant, the Wall Street Journal quoted people familiar with the matter on Friday (September 15) as saying that Lee Sang-bok was taken away by the authorities last week and questioned.
Who is Li Sangbok
65-year-old Ri Sang-bok was appointed as the new Defense Minister in March this year. Like Qin Gang, he is one of China’s five State Councilors and belongs to the same administrative level as the Vice Premier.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Emanuel tweeted again on Friday (September 15) that Li Shangfu also did not attend a scheduled meeting with the Chief of the Singapore Navy because he was “under house arrest.” But he did not provide a source for these claims. The BBC has sent a request for comment to the Singapore Navy.
Li Shangfu was born in 1958. Chinese state media reported that his father was a deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Railway Corps Southwest Command.
He has worked at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center affiliated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for more than 30 years, and was responsible for the rocket launch mission of China’s lunar exploration project.
In 2016, he served as deputy commander and chief of staff of the PLA Strategic Support Force. The Strategic Support Force is a newly established force of the People’s Liberation Army. It is mainly responsible for offensive and defensive tasks in electromagnetic space and cyberspace such as electronic countermeasures, network attack and defense, and satellite management.
In 2017, he served as director of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission. In 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on Li Shangfu, who was in charge of equipment work at the time, because of the Chinese military’s purchase of Russian weapons.
In October 2022, he was elected as a member of the 20th Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China.
In China, the Minister of Defense does not have absolute decision-making power and is more responsible for defense diplomacy. In the Central Military Commission, the highest military institution, two vice-chairmen, Zhang Youxia and He Weidong, rank above him, and the chairman is Xi Jinping himself.
In June this year, Li Shangfu went to Singapore to deliver his first speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue after taking office. He said that if there is a fierce conflict between China and the United States, it will cause “unbearable pain” to the world. His brief handshake with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attracted attention from the outside world.
image copyrightGetty Images
On March 12, 2023, at the National People’s Congress held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the newly elected Chinese State Councilor Qin Gang, State Councilor and Secretary-General of the State Council Wu Zhenglong, and State Councilor Li Shangfu took the oath after being elected.
Recent senior personnel changes
Li Shangbo’s absence has triggered a series of speculations because China has recently undergone many drastic high-level personnel changes, but the authorities have kept secret about them.
On July 31 this year, China suddenly announced the replacement of the two most senior commanders of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, confirming that former Rocket Force commander General Li Yuchao and political commissar General Xu Zhongbo, who had been “missing” for several months, had resigned.
Li Yuchao was promoted to commander of the Rocket Force in January 2022 and served for only one and a half years. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post previously disclosed that Li Yuchao was taken away by the military’s anti-corruption agency and put under investigation. Also taken away were Liu Guangbin and Zhang Zhenzhong, current and former senior generals of the Rocket Force.
Some analysts believe that this is the largest unexpected reshuffle of China’s military leadership in the past decade, reflecting the Xi Jinping government’s purge of this elite force in charge of China’s nuclear weapons.
In addition, news about the death of former deputy commander of the Rocket Force Wu Guohua has been circulating on Chinese social media in July this year. An obituary issued on July 25 and signed “Comrade Wu Guohua’s Funeral Office” stated that Wu Guohua died in Beijing on July 4 at the age of 66.
The official media outlet The Paper in Shanghai, China, confirmed the news on July 27, saying that it learned from Wu Guohua’s relatives and friends that the lieutenant general died on July 4 “due to an illness that failed to treat.”
But the report was deleted hours later. Xinhua News Agency, which normally publishes obituaries of important officials, remained silent. It’s unclear why.
Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who like Li Shangfu took office in March this year, was suddenly dismissed from his post as Foreign Minister in July this year. At that time, he had disappeared from public view for a month. Officials initially said he was experiencing health issues but have since declined to answer any details.
#Chinese #Defense #Minister #Shangfus #absence #scheduled #events #Vietnam #raises #concerns #BBC #News #Chinese