China ‘will start a war’ if Taiwan declares independence, defense minister says | China

Beijing ‘will not hesitate to start a war at all costs’ if Taiwan declares independence, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe reportedly told his US counterpart Lloyd Austin when they met on the sidelines of the Shangri Dialogue. -The on security. summit in Singapore.

Austin called on China to “refrain from further destabilizing actions” in Taiwan, according to a US statement released after their first round of talks.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry denounced China’s “absurd” sovereignty claims and thanked the United States for its support. “Taiwan has never been under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government, and the Taiwanese people will not succumb to threats of force from the Chinese government,” said ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou.

The U.S. Department of Defense said Austin “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability through the [Taiwan] Strait, opposed to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called [China] to refrain from further destabilizing actions towards Taiwan”.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phan Van Giang at the Shangri-La Dialogue Summit
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phan Van Giang at the Shangri-La Dialogue Summit. Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Tensions over Taiwan have escalated in part due to increased incursions by Chinese aircraft into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). President Joe Biden said during a visit to Japan in May that Washington would militarily defend Taiwan if attacked by China. The White House has since insisted that its policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether or not it would intervene has not changed.

In a speech on Saturday, Austin slammed China’s “provocative and destabilizing” military activity near Taiwan and said the United States would do its part to manage tensions with China and prevent conflict despite the fact that Beijing is becoming increasingly aggressive in the Asia-Pacific region. He told the Shangri-La forum that the United States would continue to support its allies, including Taiwan.

“This is all the more important as the PRC [China] takes a more coercive and aggressive approach to its land claims,” Austin said. There has been an “alarming” increase in the number of unsafe and unprofessional encounters between Chinese planes and ships with those of other countries, Austin said.

A senior Chinese military officer called Austin’s speech a “confrontation.”

Earlier, Wei Fenghe reportedly told Austin that Beijing would “smash any plot for Taiwan independence and resolutely support the unification of the motherland”.

Amid growing concerns over tensions between China and Taiwan, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a keynote speech at the summit that his government would consider acquiring a preemptive strike capability because “today’s Ukraine could be East Asia tomorrow”.

The world must be “prepared for the emergence of an entity that tramples the peace and security of other countries by force or threat without respecting the rules”, he said. He did not mention China by name in his address, but repeatedly called for maintaining the “rules-based international order”.

Kishida said he would present a “free and open Indo-Pacific peace plan” by next spring in which Japan would provide development aid, patrol boats, maritime law enforcement capabilities and other forms of assistance to the countries of South-East Asia and the Pacific to help them better protect themselves.

Japan will provide such support to at least 20 countries, train at least 800 maritime security personnel and provide about $2 billion in aid over the next three years, he said.

Kishida told his audience that improving Japan’s defense would be transparent and within the framework of its constitution.

He said the security environment in the Indo-Pacific region is deteriorating due to rising tensions in the East and South China Seas and around Taiwan.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its threat to use nuclear weapons have made matters worse, but the tide must be reversed, Kishida said, noting his position as the leader of the only country that has suffered nuclear attacks.

“I have to admit that the road to a world without nuclear weapons has become even more difficult,” Kishida said.

He described North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles, including ICBMs, and the development of nuclear weapons as a serious threat to regional peace and stability. “The non-transparent buildup of military capability, including nuclear arsenals, around Japan has become a serious regional security issue,” he said.

The threat can harm nonproliferation efforts by creating reluctance among holders of nuclear weapons to give them up, and a desire among others to develop them, Kishida said.

Austin said in his speech, which focused on American engagement in Asia, that the United States would maintain its presence in the region, but that Washington understood the need to prevent conflict.

“We are not looking for confrontation or conflict. And we are not looking for a new cold war, an Asian NATO or a region divided into hostile blocs,” he said.

Austin also touched on Ukraine, which has been a priority in Washington and other Western capitals over the past three months. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is what happens when the oppressors trample on the rules that protect us all,” Austin said. “It’s a glimpse into a possible world of chaos and turmoil that none of us would want to live in.”

In addition to Taiwan, China and the United States are at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Washington accusing Beijing of providing tacit support to Moscow.

China has called for talks to end the war, but has refrained from condemning Russia’s actions and has repeatedly criticized US arms donations to Ukraine. China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea have also stoked tensions with Washington.

Wei is due to deliver a speech at the summit on Sunday. The three-day forum, which ends on Sunday, is taking place for the first time since 2019 after being postponed twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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Post expires at 7:44am on Tuesday June 21st, 2022