Australian defence minister introduced to Chinese counterpart

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Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed Sunday he was introduced to his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe at Singapore's Shangri-La Dialogue, the first such contact between the nations in more than two years.

Marles, who also serves as Australia's deputy prime minister, told Sky News Australia the pair had shaken hands at the high-level security summit "but there's been no opportunity to have a proper conversation".

The defence minister said it was possible a meeting between them could occur on Sunday, the final day of the dialogue.

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 telecom giant Huawei from building Australia's 5G network.

Marles cautioned that the interaction was "literally nothing more than a handshake", but he did note that United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Wei in Singapore.

He called on China to be transparent about its "very significant military build-up".

"Insecurity is what drives an arms race, and we can't afford to see that happen in this part of the world," Marles said.

The handshake came as Australia's Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell sought a meeting with his Chinese counterpart while in Geneva for World Trade Association meetings.

"I look forward to an early opportunity to engage with Commerce Minister Wang Wentao," Farrell said in a statement.

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