China’s defence chief tells US not to underestimate Beijing’s resolve on Taiwan

  • Wei Fenghe restates China’s position on Taiwan in a phone call with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, which also addresses the war in Ukraine
  • Wei demands that the US stop using Russia’s invasion to ‘slander, frame, threaten and pressure China’, according to the defence ministry

The United States should not underestimate China’s determination or ability to defend its national interests and dignity, Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe told his US counterpart on Wednesday.

During his telephone call with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Wei restated China’s position on Taiwan, stressing that the self-ruled island is an inseparable part of China and that the People’s Liberation Army would “resolutely defend the national sovereign security and territorial integrity”, according to the Chinese ministry of defence.

“The Taiwan issue, if not handled properly, will have a subversive impact on the relationship between the two countries,” Wei was quoted as saying.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin was said by the Chinese defence ministry to have agreed that both sides should manage competition and risks in a responsible manner. Photo: AP

In a brief statement, the Pentagon said that the conversation was a follow-up to the call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on March 18, and that the defence chiefs discussed US-China defence relations, regional security issues and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

When exchanging their views on the Ukraine war, Wei demanded that the US stop using the issue to “slander, frame, threaten and pressure China”.

The US and other supporters of Ukraine have taken issue with China’s refusal to condemn Russia and warned of consequences if Beijing is found to help Moscow evade the sanctions placed on it.

Wei also asked that the US stop carrying out military provocations at sea, saying the two sides should have mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and avoidance of confrontation.

He said the US should implement Biden’s promises to Xi about not seeking a cold war with China and not supporting Taiwan independence.

“The two militaries should enhance military mutual trust, strengthen dialogue and exchanges, manage risks and crises, and develop practical cooperation to ensure the normal and stable development of military-to-military relations,” Wei was quoted as saying.

According to the Chinese statement, Austin responded that “the US adheres to its One China Policy”; was willing to strengthen military cooperation “in a frank and open manner”; and agreed that both sides should manage competition and risks in a responsible manner and address the difficult issues involving the relationship of the two armies.

The talk was held after some US politicians reaffirmed their support for Taiwan amid the Ukraine crisis, which escalated tensions across the strait.

Beijing regards the self-ruling island as a breakaway province, to be eventually reunified with the mainland by force if necessary.

In the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington cut its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan but maintained unofficial ties and arms sales to Taipei, which Beijing has always opposed.

A possible trip this month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan was put off after she tested positive for Covid-19, but last week a delegation of five US senators and a congressman, led by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, arrived in Taipei for a two-day stint.

The Chinese defence ministry strongly condemned the visit, and the PLA held a joint-force military exercises near the island, vowing to “take all necessary measures to resolutely thwart interference by external forces and separationist attempts of ‘Taiwan independence’”.

Author: Liu Zhen, SCMP

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