Tensions are rising around Taiwan

China will “fight to the end” to prevent Taiwan from declaring its independence, China’s defense minister said on Sunday as tensions between Beijing and Washington grew over the island’s fate. The statement sounds like a retort to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin the day before, denouncing Beijing’s “provocative and destabilizing” military activity near Taiwan.

This verbal feud between the two superpowers is taking place in a context of strong diplomatic tensions over the autonomous and democratic island, which Beijing considers to be an integral part of its territory.

Unprecedented incursions by Chinese military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense zone have raised pressure in recent months.

The remarks of the Chinese minister

“We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the end. This is the only possible choice for China, “Wei Fenghe said in an offensive tone at the” Shangri-La Dialogue “security forum in Singapore.

“Those who are pursuing Taiwan’s independence in order to divide China will certainly not achieve their goals,” he said. “No one should ever underestimate the determination and ability of the Chinese military to safeguard its territorial integrity.” Wei Fenghe urged Washington to “stop denigrating and containing China (…) and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop harming China’s interests.”

But he was also more conciliatory, calling for a “stable” Sino-US relationship, which he said was “vital to world peace.”

June 1: Beijing’s provocations against Taiwan, a challenge to US “strategic ambiguity”

US Minister denounces “destabilization”

In his speech, Lloyd Austin on Saturday denounced China’s “provocative and destabilizing” military activity near Taiwan, following a firm warning from Beijing. “We are seeing growing coercion from Beijing. We have seen a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan, ”the Pentagon chief said at a security forum in Singapore.

But he also stressed the importance of keeping the “lines of communication fully open with China’s defense officials” to avoid miscalculations.

The two men had their first face-to-face conversation on the sidelines of the Singapore summit on Friday, during which they clashed over Taiwan.

The Chinese threat

China believes that this island of 24 million people is one of its historic provinces that it intends to take back by force if necessary.

According to a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, Wei Fenghe said in a meeting with Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the forum on Friday: “If anyone dared to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military would not hesitate to moment to start a war, whatever the price ”. Beijing would “break into a thousand pieces” any attempt at independence, the Chinese Ministry of Defense warned.

For his part, Lloyd Austin told Wei Fenghe that Beijing should “refrain” from any new destabilizing action in the region, according to the Pentagon.

Taiwan speaks of “nonsense”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry responded on Saturday by saying it rejected Beijing’s “absurd claims.”

President Joe Biden, during a visit to Japan last month, seemed to break with decades of U.S. politics when, in response to a question, he said that Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if it was attacked by China.

The White House has since insisted that its policy of “strategic ambiguity” about possible intervention has not changed.

In the region tensions for the South China Sea

This dispute is only the latest between Washington and Beijing. The South China Sea is another major hotspot in the region. China claims almost all of this resource-rich sea, through which billions of dollars of maritime trade pass through each year.

Wei Fenghe on Sunday insisted that China respects freedom of navigation and has veiledly attacked Washington. “A great power has long practiced the hegemony of navigation under the pretext of freedom of navigation,” he said.

South Korea will increase its defense capabilities

Wei Fenghe said China, North Korea’s main ally, wanted peace on the Korean peninsula after a recent series of arms tests. “The key to (solving) the problem now is to pay attention to the security interests of all parties and satisfy them,” he said.

Speaking at the summit on Sunday, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said Seoul would strengthen its defense capabilities and work with the United States in the face of the northern threat.

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