Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said Beijing seeks dialogue on confrontation with the United States, warning that any conflict between the two nations will spell unbearable disaster for the world.
Speaking at the Asian security summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue, Li said on Sunday that the world is big enough for China and the United States to grow together.
China and the United States have different systems and are different in many other ways, he said in a speech that marked his first major international address since being named defense minister in March.
However, this should not prevent the two sides from seeking common ground and common interests to develop bilateral relations and deepen cooperation, he said.
It is undeniable that a serious conflict or confrontation between China and the United States will be an unbearable disaster for the world.
Ties between Washington and Beijing are strained over a range of issues, including democratically-governed Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and US President Joe Bidens’ restrictions on exports of semiconductor chips.
In their final row, the US military alleged on Saturday that the Chinese navy carried out dangerous maneuvers near a US destroyer transiting the sensitive Taiwan Strait, while Beijing accused Washington of causing risks and undermining the peace and stability in the region by encouraging pro-independence forces. in Taipei.
Earlier in the day, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the meeting in Singapore that Washington was deeply committed to preserving the status quo in self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.
He also chastised China for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over their differences.
I am deeply concerned that the PRC [Peoples Republic of China] did not want to engage more seriously on better crisis management mechanisms between our two militaries, Austin said during the meeting in Singapore.
The more we talk, the more we can avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crises or conflicts.
He added that Washington would not flinch in the face of intimidation or coercion from China and would continue to regularly sail and fly over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to emphasize that these are international waters. , thwarting Beijing’s territorial claims in the region.
Li, who the United States sanctioned in 2018 for arms purchases from Russia, shook hands with Austin over dinner on Friday, but the two did not have a further discussion, despite the repeated requests from Washington for more military exchanges.
Lis’ speech at the Singapore meeting was more subdued, though he accused the United States and others of meddling in China’s internal affairs by providing Taiwan with support and training in defense and by making high-level diplomatic visits.
China remains committed to the path of peaceful development, but we will never hesitate to uphold our legitimate rights and interests, let alone sacrifice the nation’s core interests, he said.
Li, dressed in the uniform of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army general, also took thinly veiled action in the United States, accusing some countries of stepping up an arms race and deliberately interfering. in the internal affairs of others.
He went on to warn against the establishment of NATO-style military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, saying they would only plunge the region into a whirlwind of disputes and conflicts.
A Cold War mentality is now being reborn, greatly increasing security risks, he said. Mutual respect must prevail over intimidation and hegemony.
Li appears to be referring to Washington cementing regional alliances and partnerships, including its AUKUS alliance with Australia and the UK.
The United States is also a member of the Quad group, which includes Australia, India and Japan.
Analysts in China say Beijing feels increasingly encircled by the United States.
Even before the recent direct clashes, China’s maritime communication routes, which are not just the Taiwan Strait but the South China Sea, are surrounded, encircled by US military means, the first center of the chain of islands in Okinawa, the second center of the island chain in Guam, as well as the military bottlenecks in Singapore, which somehow control the gorge, from the outflow of Chinese trade impetus, import energy, said Andrew Leung, a Hong Kong-based independent China consultant and analyst.
So if you were in China and you’re surrounded, naturally you put up a lot of defenses, he told Al Jazeera.
Despite the tensions, Beijing believes it is important to maintain communication channels, Leung said. He noted that Li held talks with the defense chiefs of US allies South Korea and Japan in Singapore, while Beijing also hosted Washington’s assistant secretary for East Asian affairs. East and Pacific, Daniel Kritenbrink, for discussions on key issues in bilateral relations.
But then, of course, the high-level talks directly between the two defense ministers, China is resisting that as a signal to American hypocrisy, Leung said.
Because in Beijing, there is a feeling that the United States is saying one thing and doing another, saying that it is not trying to derail China’s progress, but on the other hand, that they face China.
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