Li Shangfu’s removal from key Chinese government posts, including the defense portfolio, ends nearly two months of speculation over his fate.

And while questions remain over his firing, one thing is clear: An avenue for resuming high-level military talks with the U.S. is now open.

Li — who was sanctioned by the United States, presenting an obstacle toward improving ties — was dismissed from his position as defense chief and was also stripped of his more powerful post as a state councilor on Tuesday, state-run media reported, in a move backed by President Xi Jinping. The former defense minister had last been seen in public at an event on Aug. 29.