China denounces US ‘bully’, says it will ‘fight to the end’ for Taiwan

By Brad Lendon and Heather Chen, CNN

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Sunday accused the United States of being a “bully” and “hijacking” countries in the region, in a combative speech in which he said his country “would fight to the end” to prevent Taiwan independence.

“Taiwan is first and foremost China’s Taiwan,” Wei told the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense conference, adding that China “would not hesitate” to crush any attempt at “secession” from the Chinese government. autonomous island.

The speech – which came just weeks after US President Joe Biden said the US would respond “militarily” if China attacked Taiwan – capped a weekend of contentious exchanges between US and Chinese military leaders .

Wei also called on US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who had told the conference a day earlier that China was engaged in coercive, aggressive and dangerous actions that threatened to “undermine security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”.

Austin had also talked about forming a US coalition in the region and its joint military exercises with Japan, Australia, India and Indonesia, but Wei said it was a kind of “power politics” that China rejected.

“No one or any country should impose their will on others, or bully others under the guise of multilateralism,” Wei said.

“We note Secretary Austin’s remarks on the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy. For us, the strategy is an attempt to build an exclusive small group in the name of a free and open Indo-Pacific, to hijack countries in our region and target a specific country. It’s a strategy to create conflict,” Wei said.

“Fight to the End”

But Wei – who met Austin in a bilateral meeting on Friday afternoon – reserved some of his harshest criticism for Washington’s stance on Taiwan, the democratically-governed island that Beijing considers its territory despite never ruled it.

Austin had said on Friday that the United States would continue to support Taiwan with the means to defend itself, including arms sales that China considers a violation of its sovereignty.

As part of US policy, Washington provides defensive weapons to Taiwan, but has remained intentionally ambiguous about whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack – a policy the White House says remains intact despite recent Biden’s comments that seemed to deviate from ambiguity. Washington recognizes China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially acknowledged Beijing’s claim to the self-governing island.

Wei said there would be no compromise over China’s sovereignty or whether Taiwan would ever be “reunified” with the mainland – a clear goal of China’s ruling Communist Party, which calls to peaceful “reunification” but did not rule out the use of force.

“China will definitely achieve reunification. … It’s a historic trend that no one, no force can stop,” Wei said.

And the People’s Liberation Army was ready to shed blood to enforce that if necessary, he said.

“Let me clear things up,” Wei said. “If anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight. We will fight at all costs. And we will fight until the end. »

China’s defense minister said the route the United States was taking in the region was one his country would never take.

“The order of human civilization must be based on the rule of law. Otherwise, the law of the jungle will prevail,” Wei said.

“China will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansion or an arms race. We do not bully others, but we will not allow others to bully us,” he said. .

Wei heads China’s Ministry of National Defense but is not the top military official in the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, which controls China’s armed forces under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Regional tensions

China faced a barrage of criticism at the Shangri-La conference.

Delegates from US allies like Australia and Canada have criticized what they see as Beijing’s violation of international laws, including what they claim are dangerous interceptions of their planes operating in the region.

Without citing China by name, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday that the Asian security situation was prompting Tokyo to significantly increase its defense budget and to consider acquiring “counterattack weapons” of the type not currently found. not currently in his arsenal.

Japanese forces and Australian forces, among other American allies and partners, have operated in the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely as its sovereign territory.

China has militarized various man-made islands in the 1.3 million square mile waterway.

But Wei inferred that it was the United States that got into it by sending warships into the waterway.

“Some great powers have long practiced shipping hegemony under the guise of freedom of navigation,” Wei said.

He said the United States and China were at a critical juncture in their relationship, but said the ball was in Washington’s court when it came to defusing tensions.

Washington must stop “smearing” Beijing and “interfering in China’s internal affairs” for relations to improve, Wei said.

“It would be a historical and strategic mistake to insist on taking China as a threat and as an adversary or even an enemy,” he said.

If Washington can treat Beijing with “mutual respect,” there is room for both nations to prosper, Wei argued.

But he had a stern warning if the United States decided otherwise.

“If you want to cooperate, we must promote mutual benefits and win-win results. However, if you want confrontation, we will fight to the end.

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