Defense Minister warns China will not hesitate to fight for Taiwan

SINGAPORE – China will not flinch from war if Taiwan takes a decisive step towards independence and it does not trust US assertions that it opposes such a course towards the island, State Secretary China chamber warned on Sunday, a day after the defense minister. Lloyd J. Austin III accuses Beijing of increasing activity near Taiwan.

Defense Minister, General Wei Fenghe, speaks on the final day of the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security forum in Singapore that Mr. Austin also attended. In their exchange over the weekend, the two men eased tensions between Beijing and Washington over disputes across Asia, particularly over Taiwan.

In a speech to diplomats, defense officials and security experts at a five-star hotel, General Wei said that China is sincerely doing everything it can to bring about peaceful reunification with Taiwan. Loan, the self-governing island that Beijing considers its own. However, he said, “no one should underestimate the determination and ability of China’s armed forces” to defend its claims.

“For the sake of unification, the United States waged war between the South and the North,” said General Wei. “China does not want to go through such a civil war, but will resolutely crush all attempts to gain independence for Taiwan. If anyone dares to divide Taiwan, we will not hesitate to fight, unafraid of costs, and will fight to the end.”

China has long said it would use force on Taiwan if necessary, and General Wei’s comments left many uncertain about what Xi Jinping and other leaders in Beijing would consider a threshold event that might justify the action. But comments from General Wei, Mr. Austin and others at the Singapore meeting highlighted that Taiwan remains the most volatile point of contention between China and the United States and its allies.

Officials and experts disagree on how an impending military clash in Taiwan is likely. But most believe the danger is growing as the People’s Liberation Army moves closer to amassing the equipment and skills needed to make invasion a sensible, if difficult, option. and costs a lot.

“You’re hearing more anxiety about Taiwan, a lot of people saying that conflict isn’t a matter of if, it’s about when,” Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat who is now a researcher at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, said in an interview in Singapore. “We are going into more dangerous waters. But for China, the ability to initiate a full-blown invasion would be only one part of the equation. How do you occupy an island of 24 million people? ”

Generals Wei and Austin held talks Friday on regional issues and the war in Ukraine, as well as efforts to strengthen communication between the US and Chinese militaries and avoid dangerous misjudgments. military danger.

Mr. Austin told the forum on Saturday that China had engaged in “provocative and destabilizing” military activities near Taiwan. He also said that the Biden administration does not support Taiwan independence and remains committed to the “one China” principle, which acknowledges – but does not endorse – Beijing’s position on Taiwan.

On Sunday, General Wei pointed out, without naming the United States, that Chinese leaders do not believe such assurances.

“A certain country has violated the principle and commitment of ‘one China’ regarding the Taiwan issue,” General Wei said in his speech. “Taiwan independence is a dead end, an illusion. Relying on the support of foreigners will not succeed. Forget it.”

Since 1979, when it ended official relations with Taiwan and extended diplomatic recognition to China, the United States has continued to sell weapons to the island. US law also requires Washington to be ready “against any forceful measures” against Taiwan, leaving open the possibility that US military might intervene should China attempt to invade.

Mr. Austin speak in Singapore that the United States has committed to “maintaining our capacity to resist any use of force or other forms of coercion” that might affect Taiwan.

Chinese policymakers have accused the Biden administration and the previous administration of President Donald J. Trump of steadily upgrading political and military support for Taiwan.

Beijing has expressed particular disdain for Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s incumbent president, who has rejected China’s preconditions for negotiations over the island’s future. Taiwan’s next presidential election, in 2024, could provide another flashpoint. A growing number of people in Taiwan reject the idea that they are part of China’s culture and history, and a majority say they do not accept Beijing’s unified framework.

“We will defend our hard-won democracy”, Taiwan’s foreign ministry say on saturday, in response to General Wei’s earlier remark that the People’s Liberation Army would “smash” any momentum for Taiwan’s independence. “History shows that appeasement only invites aggression,” the ministry said.

In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Austin blamed China for the present tension about Taiwan, citing the “alarming increase in the number of unsafe aerial intercepts and confrontations at sea” by People’s Liberation Army aircraft and ships. “Stakes are particularly serious in the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Austin said.

Richard Marles, Australia’s defense minister, told the Singapore forum that China should give more assurances about its military build-up. “Ensuring legal status will be the foundation for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he say.

General Wei said Washington’s view of China as an enemy was “a historical and strategic mistake”. He called on the US to “stop attacking and smearing China” and “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs”. General Wei added, unless it does so, relations will not improve.

“If you want to fight,” he said, “we will fight to the end.”

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