China announces removal of defense minister missing for almost 2 months with little explanation
Gen. Li Shangfu is under US sanctions related to his overseeing weapon purchases from Russia that bar him from entering the country
Taipei, October 24 : China has replaced Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu, who has been out of public view for almost two months with little explanation, state media reported on Tuesday.
Li is the second senior Chinese official to disappear this year, following former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who was removed from office in July with no explanation offered.
Li, who became defense minister during a Cabinet reshuffle in March, hasn’t been seen since giving a speech on August 29.
There is no indication that the disappearances of Qin and Li signal a change in China’s foreign or defense policies, although they have raised questions about the resilience of president and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s circle of power.
Xi has a reputation for valuing loyalty above all and has relentlessly attacked corruption in public and private, sometimes in what has been seen as a method of eliminating political rivals and shoring up his political position amid a deteriorating economy and rising tensions with US over trade, technology and Taiwan.
Li is under US sanctions related to his overseeing weapon purchases from Russia that bar him from entering the country.
China has since cut off contacts with the US military, mainly in protest over US arm sales to Taiwan, but also strongly implying that Washington must lift the measures against Li, which Beijing refuses to publicly recognise.