China has removed General Li Shangfu from the post of Defence Minister in the country’s second leadership shake-up in three months, media reported.
State broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday that Li has been removed, without giving any explanation.
The move came after weeks of speculation over the fate of the US-sanctioned general, who has not been seen in public since the end of August. The decision to remove him was approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, South China Morning Post reported.
Li is the second minister to be abruptly removed since President Xi Jinping began his unprecedented third term as the party’s leader last October.
Qin Gang was replaced as Foreign Minister in July by his predecessor Wang Yi, after a similar unexplained withdrawal from public engagements. The reason for Qin’s removal is still not known.
Li and Qin were also removed as state councillors on Tuesday – a higher ranking than regular ministers. No replacements were named, South China Morning Post reported.
The announcement came just days before a Pentagon delegation is due to arrive in Beijing for a regional security forum, paving the way for a long-stalled high-level military dialogue between the two sides.
Unlike their counterparts in the West, Chinese Foreign and Defence Ministers are chiefly policy enforcers, not the top decision-makers.
Li, 65, was also stripped of his Central Military Commission membership by China’s top legislative body, according to the CCTV report, South China Morning Post reported.