Washington (CNN) China’s top naval officer canceled a visit to the US to meet with his American counterpart less than 48 hours before the meeting was scheduled to occur, according to two US defense officials.
“We were informed that Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong has been recalled to China and will not conduct a visit with Chief of National Operations Adm. John Richardson. We have no additional information at this time,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told CNN in a statement.
Richardson was scheduled to meet with Shen, the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) commander, Saturday on the sidelines of the International Seapower Symposium at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
One official said the last-minute cancellation was believed to be the result of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington over trade disputes and other issues.
Last week the US State Department announced that it was sanctioning China’s Equipment Development Department and its director due to Beijing’s purchase of Russian-made Su-35 jets and an S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
That action was protested by the Chinese government, which summoned the US ambassador to Beijing to complain.
The latest round of US and Chinese tariffs which were imposed last week were scheduled to take effect on Monday
Richardson and his Chinese counterpart are two of the senior-most US and Chinese military officials to have regular contact with one another, a relationship that has been described by some US officials as akin to that of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Russia’s top military officer, Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
Richardson and Shen last spoke on June 14 via video teleconference. Their first such teleconference took place in July 2017.