Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe criticized the United States on Sunday for its support of an independent Taiwan and naval operations in the South China Sea region but said conflict or war between the two countries would be a disaster.
Wei made the remarks during the annual Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore, officially known as the Asia Security Summit, which opened Friday.
China would “fight to the end” anyone who tried to split Taiwan from China, said Wei, adding that likewise, China will not seize land from others.
“No attempts to split China will succeed. Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” said Wei.
“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs… The U.S. is indivisible, and so is China. China must be, and will be, reunified,” Wei said.
On Saturday, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan accused China of sabotaging freedom of navigation and creating instability in Asia.
South China Sea issue
Lieutenant General Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, also slammed Shanahan’s “false remarks” on the South China Sea.
China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands and reefs and the adjacent waters in the South China Sea, based on sufficient historical and legal facts, Shao said.
The general also accused U.S. naval operations in the region of “being harmful to regional peace.”
The United States has been dispatching warships and aircraft to the nearby waters and airspace of the South China Sea islands and reefs, and implementing frequent close-up reconnaissance and targeted military drills, Shao said.
The senior Chinese official delivered his wish for a stable relationship between the militaries of Beijing and Washington but voiced China’s firm rejection to the “false remarks” made by Shanahan.
The ongoing trade war
On the ongoing trade war, the Chinese defense minister vows to “fight to the end” if the U.S. wanted a fight. But if Washington wanted to talk, “we will keep the door open,” said Wei.
Trade tensions escalated sharply last month after Trump administration accused China of having “reneged” on its previous promises to make structural changes to its economic practices. Later, Washington slapped additional tariffs of up to 25 percent on 200 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of Chinese goods.
On Sunday, the Chinese State Council Information Office (SCIO) issued a white paper, reiterating its stance that China does not want a trade war, but it is not afraid of one, and it will fight one if necessary.
Reaction from the summit’s participants
In his speech, Wei also emphasized China’s long-term insistence on the “active defense strategy.” Xu Hui, a member of the Chinese delegation to the summit in Singapore and the Commandant of International College of Defense Studies at China’s National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, explained his understanding of this military strategy.
François Heisbourg, former chair of the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies) Council, said that the fact that General Wei came and spoke and also took questions from the audience is “a very good and positive sign.”
Heisbourg added that “the general stated the Chinese position in a very clear and candid manner, and without any particular concessions.”
Heisbourg also noted that General Wei, like his counterpart, Acting Secretary Shanahan, “did not close the door to the continuation of the regular military-to-military relations with China.”
Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, the executive deputy chairman of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, echoed similar sentiments.
“They (U.S. and China) put their views across very firmly, in fact, uncompromisingly.”
“It is tough talking, it is very candid, blunt, but it does not mean that there are no more diplomatic relations or exchange of other personal greetings.”