Australia, China defence ministers meet for first time in 3 years

Australia's defence minister Richard Marles (left) and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe met for more than an hour. PHOTOS: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Australia and China's defence ministers met for the first time in three years on Sunday (June 12), with the talks described as "an important first step" following a period of strained ties.

"It was an opportunity to have a very frank and full exchange in which I raised a number of issues of concern to Australia," Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said, confirming the meeting to journalists in Singapore.

The meeting between Marles and Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe took place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit and lasted more than an hour.

"It is really important in these times to have open lines of dialogue," said Mr Marles, who is also Australia's deputy prime minister.

"Australia and China's relationship is complex. And it's precisely because of this complexity, that it is really important that we are engaging in dialogue right now."

There was no immediate comment from General Wei or the Chinese government on the meeting.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have grown frosty in recent years, after the latter called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from building Australia's 5G network.

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