China has canceled a security meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis that had been planned for October, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday, days after a top Chinese official said there was no reason to panic over tensions between the countries. The official, who is involved in China policy and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was not clear if or when the meeting would be rescheduled, as reported by Reuters. The cancellation was first reported by the New York Times.
The official said it was not clear whether the cancellation was because of the broad range of disputes between Beijing and Washington on issues such as arms sales and military activity in the South China Sea and other waters around China.
"The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides," the official said. Sources in Beijing briefed on the matter said last week the security meeting may not take place because of the tensions in relations between the two countries.The two countries are already embroiled in an acrimonious trade war and have continued to butt heads over a list of sensitive issues including the disputed South China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan, armed by Washington but claimed by Beijing. China last week demanded the U.S. cancel a $330 million sale of spare parts and related support for Taiwan's U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft, warning of "severe damage" to bilateral relations and mutual cooperation if Washington fails to comply.
The arms sale coincides with a U.S. decision to issue a visa ban and assets freeze on China's Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, over the purchase from Russia of Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment this year. China also turned down a request for an October port call in Hong Kong by the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. China last denied such a visit in 2016 amid a spike in tensions between the countries over the South China Sea.