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China’s defense chief says Beijing is prepared to “forcefully” stop Taiwan’s independence

Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun warned on Sunday that his military was prepared to “forcefully” stop Taiwan’s independence, while calling for increased dialogue with the United States. The comments were made during an annual security forum in Singapore, following the first substantive in-person talks between the two countries’ defense chiefs in 18 months.

Dong told the forum on Sunday: “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has always been an indestructible and strong force in defending the unification of the motherland, and will act decisively and forcefully at all times to curtail Taiwan’s independence and ensure that it never succeeds in its attempts.” . He added: “Whoever dares to separate Taiwan from China will be crushed into pieces and suffer its own destruction.”

Dong stressed that China has always been receptive to exchanges and cooperation, but stressed that both sides must meet halfway. He expressed his belief that more exchanges are necessary precisely because of the differences between the two armies. The meeting between Dong and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lasted over an hour at the luxury hotel that hosts the forum, which is attended by defense officials from around the world and has recently been seen as an indicator of US-China relations.

After the meeting, Austin announced that telephone conversations between US and Chinese military commanders would resume “in the coming months”, while Beijing praised the “stabilising” security relationship between the two nations. This year’s Shangri-La dialogue comes a week after China held military exercises around self-ruled Taiwan and warned of war on the US-backed island after the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, which Beijing labeled as a “dangerous separatist”.

The Biden administration and China have increased communication to reduce tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing and Shanghai last month, focusing on resuming military-to-military dialogue to prevent disputes from escalating.

China halted military communications with the US in 2022 after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Relations have been further strained by incidents such as the downing of an alleged Chinese spy balloon over US airspace, meetings between Taiwanese and US officials and US military aid to Taipei.

China has also expressed anger over deepening US defense ties in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly with the Philippines, and the regular deployment of US warships and fighter jets to the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Beijing sees these actions as part of a protracted US strategy to contain it.

(With contributions from agencies)