A major security forum opened Sunday in Beijing with the United States among participants from more than 90 countries and international organizations, while the host China was not represented by a defense minister following the unexplained dismissal of Li Shangfu last week.

The Xiangshan Forum, which Beijing promotes as the Chinese alternative to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, is being held in person for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gen. Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission -- China's highest national defense organization -- will make a keynote speech during the three-day event.

Military personnel and researchers exchange opinions at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on Oct. 29, 2023. (Kyodo)

Whether military-to-military communication between the United States and China, which has been suspended since a visit in August last year by then U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, will resume alongside the forum has drawn attention.

The U.S. delegation is led by Cynthia Carras, principal director for China, Taiwan, Mongolia at the Defense Department.

The Pentagon has said it welcomes the opportunity to engage with Chinese military representatives at the forum "on ensuring open and reliable lines of communication, ensuring crisis communications channels, reducing strategic and operational risk, and avoiding misperceptions."

Other participants include Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Vietnamese Defense Minister Phan Van Giang and Mongolian Defense Minister Gursed Saikhanbayar as well as NATO officials.

Japan has sent two officials from Japan's National Institute for Defense Studies.

The forum came after a three-day visit to Washington by Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi, during which the importance of reopening bilateral military-to-military communication channels was discussed among other topics, according to senior U.S. officials.

Wang held talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top national security adviser Jake Sullivan during his trip through Saturday.

Li's removal from the defense minister post was approved by China's parliament last Tuesday, nearly two months after he disappeared from public view. Speculation is rife that he may be under investigation over corruption.

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