Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Austin eyes meeting with Chinese counterpart 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin answers questions during a House Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the President's FY 2023 budget for the Department of Defense on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
The Hill, Greg Nash

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is reportedly planning to meet face-to-face with his Chinese counterpart in the coming weeks.  

We’ll break down the reported meeting, plus why former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro is suing the Justice Department and House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Austin could meet Chinese counterpart next month 

The U.S. and Chinese governments are working to set up the first face-to-face meeting between their current top defense officials during a conference in Singapore in June, The Wall Street Journal reported.    

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to travel June 10 to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe is also expected to attend, people familiar with the situation told the outlet. 

The people noted to the Journal that the meeting is not set in stone. 

Did Austin hint at this? Austin earlier this month appeared to confirm the planned meeting to the Senate Appropriations Committee, telling lawmakers that he hoped the expected encounter with Wei would “promote security and stability in the region.”  

“We both recognize the importance of a dialogue and maintaining open channels,” Austin said at the time. “I look forward to again engaging him in the future, in the not-too-distant future.” 

The elephant in the room: A conversation between Austin and Wei would carry all the more weight considering the recent increased tensions between the Washington and Beijing over Taiwan. 

During President Biden’s first trip to Asia as president earlier this month, he stoked tensions when he said the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily if China invaded. The White House quickly walked back Biden’s comments, saying that he wasn’t announcing a policy change.  

Two days later, China announced that it conducted military drills near Taiwan, which it views as its territory.   

The phone conversation: In April, Austin and Wei spoke by phone — the first such conversation between the two — to discuss “defense relations, regional security issues, and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” according to the Pentagon.  

China, meanwhile, said Wei told Austin that the two countries should “avoid confrontation” and that the U.S. should not support Taiwan’s independence or “underestimate China’s determination and capability.”  

“If the Taiwan question is not handled properly, it will have a subversive effect on the China-US relations,” according to a readout of the conversation from Beijing. 

Read the full story here 

Navarro sues Jan. 6 panel, DOJ 

Former Trump White House economic adviser Peter Navarro formally filed suit Tuesday against the Jan. 6 committee and the Department of Justice in a case where he will be acting as his own attorney. 

‘The kangaroo committee:’ Navarro said his lawsuit is mainly directed at the committee, but he included DOJ in his suit after being served the subpoena early Monday morning as he was finalizing his lawsuit. 

“It is 99 percent aimed at the kangaroo committee that [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [(D-Calif.)] formed. I drafted my lawsuit prior to any communication from the U.S. attorney. And just before I was going to file it I got this other subpoena so I just included that in the filing,” Navarro told The Hill. 

The lawsuit lays out similar arguments as others that have challenged the committee, including a focus on its composition, and reiterates Navarro’s earlier claims that as a former White House employee he cannot be called to testify. Trump has not asserted executive privilege with respect to Navarro. 

How we got here: Navarro released a draft of the suit Monday evening, revealing he has likewise been the subject of a grand jury subpoena by Matthew Graves, the U.S. Attorney for D.C. 

According to Navarro, Monday’s grand jury subpoena from DOJ asks him to turn over documents by Thursday, something he said he is not yet sure he will do.  

“I’m not commanded to testify, I’m just commanded to produce documents,” Navarro said. 

A defendant-led challenge: Navarro is not an attorney, and his suit will be the first defendant-led challenge to the committee. 

“I think the brief speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s written in the genre of the law. I have case law to support my arguments drawing on the constitution and U.S. civil statutes. And I’m right. There’s no question I’m right.”  

“The whole idea of executive privilege and testimonial immunity is to provide an environment where senior advisors like myself can offer advice to the president and among other advisors without concern of the candor being revealed to the broader public,” Navarro added. 

Read the full story here

FROM THE WEEKEND: BIDEN WON’T SEND KYIV LONG-RANGE ROCKETS  

President Biden on Monday said his administration will not send to Ukraine long-range missile systems that can strike into Russian territory, after media outlets reported that officials were preparing to send weapons with long-distance capabilities.   

“We are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia,” Biden told reporters on the South Lawn.   

The statement conflicts with reporting by CNN and The Washington Post that the administration was preparing to provide Ukraine with the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), a U.S.-made system that can fire rockets up to 300 kilometers, allowing Ukrainian forces to strike into Russian territory.   

It’s possible the U.S. package will only include shorter-range rockets that can’t strike beyond 50 miles.   

Read more here.   

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • The American Security Project will host a conversation with former NATO Supreme Allied commander Gen. Philip Breedlove at 10 a.m. 
  • The Heritage Foundation will host a conversation on Readiness with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall at 11 a.m. 
  • The McCain Institute will host a discussion entitled “A 21st Century Iron Curtain? Looking at the Future of NATO” at 11 a.m. 
  • Adm. Linda L. Fagan will take over as Commandant of the U.S. Coast at a Change of Command ceremony at 11 a.m. 
  • The Wilson Center will host a discussion on “The Echo of Chechnya in Russia’s War with Ukraine” at 12 p.m. 
  • The Ronald Reagan Institute will hold a discussion on the 40th Anniversary of President Reagan’s Westminster Address at 3 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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