China on Sunday reportedly canceled an annual security meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis amid heightening tensions between Washington and Beijing. 

The New York Times reported that China canceled the meeting, which was planned for mid-October in Beijing, because a senior military officer would not be available to meet with Mattis. China had previously touted the talks as a way to make progress in an at-times icy relationship.

The Wall Street Journal, citing a U.S. defense official, reported that Mattis’s trip to Beijing has been cancelled.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing refused comment, it added.

{mosads}Vice President Pence is reportedly expected to give a speech this week laying out the Trump administration’s concerns with China’s behavior in recent years.

The two countries have been at odds over trade, military action and, most recently, accusations of election interference.

A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman last week blamed the U.S. for ongoing military tensions, saying that “provocative” flights by the U.S. military over the South China Sea were particularly worrisome. China claims much of the South China Sea as its territory, though those claims are disputed by several East and Southeast Asian countries.

President Trump last month slapped an additional $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, further ratcheting up a trade dispute between Washington and Beijing. China responded with tens of billions of dollars of tariffs on U.S. goods, leading to concerns that the world’s two largest economies were on course for a trade war.

Trump has insisted that the tariffs are necessary to secure an improved trade agreement and to get China to open its markets.

Trump further escalated tensions with China last week when he alleged at a United Nations Security Council meeting that China was interfering in the 2018 U.S. elections to hurt Republicans because it’s unhappy with his trade policies.

While he did not cite specifics, he later shared photos of a section in The Des Moines Register that contained a four-page insert purchased by a Chinese government–backed media company. The insert took aim at Trump’s trade policies in the corn- and soy-producing state.

Trump decried the tactic as “propaganda.”

China rejected the allegation during the U.N. meeting, saying the country “did not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs.”

–This report was updated at 11:37 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump James Mattis

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