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

Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun warned on Sunday his military was ready to “forcefully” stop Taiwan’s independence, but called for more exchanges with the United States. The remarks at an annual security forum in Singapore followed the first substantive face-to-face talks between the two countries’ defense chiefs in 18 months.

“We have always been open to exchanges and cooperation, but this requires both sides to meet halfway,” Dong told the Shangri-La Dialogue, where he met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday.

“We think we need more exchanges precisely because there are differences between our two armies.”

Dong and Austin met for more than an hour at the luxury hotel that hosts the forum, which is attended by defense officials from around the world and has in recent years been seen as a barometer of US-China relations.

After the meeting, Austin said telephone conversations between US and Chinese military commanders would resume “in the coming months”, while Beijing hailed “stabilising” security relations between the countries.

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 described as as a “dangerous separatist”.

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has always been an indestructible and powerful force in defense of 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 said Dong Sunday on the forum.

“Whoever dares to separate Taiwan from China will be smashed to pieces and suffer its own destruction.”

President Joe Biden’s administration and China have stepped up communication to ease friction between the nuclear-armed rivals, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Beijing and Shanghai last month.

A key focus has been the resumption of military-to-military dialogue, which is seen as essential to prevent flashpoint disputes from spiraling out of control.

China cut off military communications with the United States in 2022 in response to then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been further fueled by issues including an alleged Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over US airspace, a meeting between then-Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Pelosi’s successor, Kevin McCarthy, and American military aid to Taipei.

China is also furious over the United States’ deepening defense ties in the Asia-Pacific, particularly with the Philippines, and the regular deployment of warships and fighter jets to the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Beijing sees this as part of a decades-long US effort to control it.

The two sides agreed after a summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Biden last November to resume high-level military talks, including on military operations near Taiwan, Japan and in the South China Sea.

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