Amid trade and geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing, the Financial Times published a report in which US officials said that the US government believes that Chinese Defense Minister General Li Shangfu is under investigation by Beijing and has been relieved of his duties.

The report came shortly after US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel made statements on social media platforms in which he said that the Chinese Defense Minister hasn’t been seen or heard from for three weeks, indicating that the he may be under house arrest.

Last July, China also made changes to the leadership of the Missile Force, the military unit that oversees its nuclear arsenal, and its former commander, Li Yuchao, wasn’t seen in public for weeks before the change, while the Chinese Xinhua News Agency, didn’t provide any explanation for his sack.

In response to a question from Agence France-Presse about whether Li Shangfu was under investigation, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that she wasn’t aware of the situation you are raising.

The Financial Times reported that three US officials and two other people familiar with intelligence information said that the United States had concluded that the Chinese defense minister was relieved of his ministerial duties.

The US administration didn’t explain the reasons that led it to that conclusion.

The White House hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue, as the Chinses defense minister traveled to Russia last August to attend a security conference near Moscow on August 15.

Two days later, the Belarusian government published photos of his meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk.

General Li Shangfu refused to meet with his US counterparts before Washington lifted the sanctions imposed on him by former President Donald Trump over his purchase of Russian military technology.

The absence of a prominent Chinese official figure from public affairs prompted Ambassador Emmanuel, who doesn’t hide his criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping, to raise speculation about the issue on September 7 and then a week later.

“President Xi’s cabinet lineup now resembles Agatha Christie’s (And Then There Were None) Emanuel wrote last week on X platform.

Emmanuel continued, “First, Foreign Minister Qin Gang disappeared, then the leaders of the Rockets Force, and now Defense Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t appeared in public for two weeks”.

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