In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Rahm Emanuel wrote: “1st: Defense Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen or heard from in 3 weeks. 2nd: He was a no-show for his trip to Vietnam. Now: He’s absent from his scheduled meeting with the Singaporean Chief of Navy because he was placed on house arrest???” The post was accompanied by the hashtag #MysteryInBeijingBuilding” and also referenced a quote from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Earlier on September 8, Rahm Emanuel had likened the absence of China’s defence minister to Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None.
China’s foreign and defense ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The US embassy in Tokyo said it did not immediately have further comment.
On Thursday, Reuters exclusively reported that Li had abruptly canceled a meeting with Vietnamese defense leaders last week. He was last seen in Beijing on Aug. 29 delivering a keynote address at a security forum with African nations.
According to the Financial Times, the US government believes Li has been placed under investigation, citing three US officials and two people briefed on the intelligence. The report did not specify the nature of the investigation.
It was not immediately clear which meeting with Singapore Rahm was referring to in his post. The Singapore Navy’s Rear Admiral Sean Wat was in China from September 4-9 and met with PLA Navy commander Dong Jun and other Navy leaders, as reported by Singapore’s defense ministry on its website. There was no mention of him meeting or being scheduled to meet Li.
Singapore’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding Li follows China’s unexplained replacement of its foreign minister, Qin Gang, in July after a prolonged absence from public view and recent leadership changes within the People’s Liberation Army’s elite Rocket Force. These developments have raised concerns among analysts and diplomats about the lack of transparency and unpredictable decision-making within China’s leadership.
Li, who assumed his post in March, also holds one of China’s five state councillor positions, a cabinet role that ranks higher than that of a regular minister.
(With inputs from agencies)
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