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UPDATE 3-Ukraine, China-US Relations Dominate Asian Security Meeting

The war in Ukraine and China’s increasingly strained relationship with the United States figured in almost every session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which ended on Sunday after three days of talks.

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who delivered one of the star speeches on the last day of the meeting, said it was up to the United States to improve bilateral relations with his country, as relations were at a critical moment.

“We ask the US side to stop smearing and containing China. Stop interfering in China’s internal affairs. Bilateral relations can only improve if the US side can do so,” Wei said. , dressed in the uniform of a general of the People’s Liberation Army. delegates.

The Shangri-La Dialogue is Asia’s premier security meeting and this year attracted 575 delegates from 40 countries, including diplomats, defense officials and arms manufacturers.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in his speech at Saturday’s meeting that there had been an “alarming” increase in the number of unsafe and unprofessional encounters between Chinese planes and ships with those of ‘other countries. He added that the United States would stand with its allies, including Taiwan.

US-China relations usually dominate the annual meeting in Singapore – held for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic – but this year Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was front and center.

The highlight was an address at the video-link meeting by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who warned delegates that the invasion of his country threatened the rules-based order and put the whole world at risk of famine and food crises.

Several delegates questioned China’s relationship with Russia.

Wei said China supports the peace talks and Beijing has not provided any materials to Russia. He said providing weapons and imposing sanctions would not improve the situation.

Meia Nouwens, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Wei’s speech was in line with Beijing’s official line on Russian-Ukrainian issues.

“He also pointed out that China is a partner of Russia and not an ally of Russia and they don’t have an alliance,” Nouwens said. “They point out that ultimately Chinese policy has always been to pursue China’s own interests and not tie itself up with these other countries.”

Russia was not invited to the meeting, which Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said was understandable, although he said “the search for compromise, the search for ground of understanding, helps diplomatic efforts”.

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dmytro Senik told Reuters on Sunday that more weapons were needed to help his country recover territory lost to the Russians and that the government was working on ways to get exports out of the country. country cereals.

“We have established two routes that help us export these agricultural products,” Senik said. “These routes are not perfect, because it creates certain bottlenecks, but we are doing our best.”

UNCHANGED IN TAIWAN

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” which it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy the military capabilities of its southern neighbor and capture what it sees as dangerous nationalists.

Addressing the Taiwan issue, Defense Minister Wei said China’s position on the island, which Beijing considers a province, was unchanged. He said the Chinese government was seeking “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan but was reserving “other options”.

In Taiwan, Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said on Sunday that the island does not want to close the door to China and is willing to engage in a spirit of goodwill, but on an equal footing and without conditions. prior policies.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup told the Singapore meeting that his country would strengthen its defense capabilities and work closely with the United States and Japan to counter the nuclear and ballistic threat. of North Korea. The South would also help North Korea if it denuclearized, he said.

Fiji’s defense minister, Inia Seruiratu, said despite all the attention given to military issues during the Shangri-La dialogue, more pressing threats were being ignored.

“On our blue continent of the Pacific, machine guns, fighter jets, gray ships and green battalions are not our primary security concern,” Seruiratu said. “The greatest threat to our very existence is climate change. It threatens our hopes and dreams of prosperity.”

© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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