SINGAPORE: Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe on Sunday said it was up to the US to improve the relationship, as ties were at a critical juncture.
Repeating several times that China sought peace and stability and was not an aggressor, he said the US should “stop smearing and containing China. Stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.
“The bilateral relationship cannot improve unless the US side can do that,” Wei, dressed in his military uniform, told the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defence conference.
He accused the United States of being a “bully” and "hijacking" countries around the region, during a combative speech in which he said his country would "fight to the very end" to stop Taiwanese independence.
“Taiwan is first and foremost China’s Taiwan,” Wei said, adding that China would “not hesitate” to crush any attempt by the self-governed island to “secede”.
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 confrontational exchanges between the American and Chinese military chiefs.
Wei also called out US Defence Secretary 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.”
“No one and no country should impose its will on others, or bully others under the guise of multilateralism,” Wei said.
“We notice Secretary Austin’s remarks on the US Indo-Pacific strategy. To 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 one specific country. It is a strategy to create conflict,” Wei said.
Wei said there would be no compromise on China's sovereignty or the question of whether Taiwan will one day be “reunited” with the mainland — a clear goal of China's ruling Communist Party, which calls for peaceful “reunification” but has not ruled out using force.
“China will definitely realize its reunification. ... It is a historical trend that no one, no force can stop,” Wei said. And the People's Liberation Army was prepared tospill blood to enforce that if necessary, he said.
“Let me make this clear,” 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 to the very end.” The Chinese defence minister said the road the US is taking in the region is one his country would never go down. “The order of human civilisation 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 inferred that it was the US that was muscling in by sending naval ships into the waterway. “Some big power has long practised navigation hegemony on the pretext of freedom of navigation,” Wei said.
He said the US and China are at a critical juncture in their relationship, but contended the ball is in Washington’s court when it comes to diffusing tensions. Washington must stop “smearing” Beijing and “interfering in China’s internal affairs” for relations to improve, Wei said.
“It will be a historic and strategic mistake to insist on taking China as a threat and of 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 contended. But he had a stern warning if the United States chose otherwise. “If you want to cooperate, we should promote mutual benefits and win-win results. However, if you want confrontation, we will fight to the end.”
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