Suspicion over the unexplained weeks-long absence of Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu deepened on Friday, as some media reported he was subject to a probe and a top U.S. diplomat questioned whether he had been placed under house arrest, APA reports citing Reuters.
Li, 65, has missed meetings with Vietnamese and Singaporean defence leaders in recent weeks, according to sources with direct knowledge of the engagements. He was last seen in Beijing on Aug. 29 delivering a keynote address at a security forum with African nations.
The U.S. government believes Li has been placed under investigation, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing U.S. officials. The Wall Street Journal reported he had been taken away last week for questioning and removed from his post.
Neither report stated the reasons behind the investigation.
Rahm Emanuel, Washington's outspoken ambassador to Japan, wrote in a post on X: "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???"
China's defence ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The U.S. embassy in Tokyo said it did not have immediate further comment.
Asked whether Li was under investigation, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said she was "not aware of the relevant information".