SINGAPORE (AP) — China’s defense minister has defended a warship sailing into the path of an American destroyer and Canadian frigate moving through the Taiwan Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world’s top defense officials in Singapore on The so-called “freedom of navigation” patrols are a provocation in China.
In his first international public speech since becoming defense minister in March, Gen. Li Shangfu in the Shangri-La Dialogue that China does not have any problem with the “innocent passage” but “we must prevent attempts that try to use the freedom of navigation (patrols), which is innocent passage, to exercise the hegemony of navigation. ”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin The same forum said on Saturday that Washington will not “back down in the face of bullying or coercion” from China and will continue to regularly sail and fly through the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea to emphasize that they are international water, against Beijing’s extensive territorial claims. .
That same day, as a US guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship as they moved through the strait between the self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China. The Chinese vessel caught up with the American ship and then crossed its bow at a distance of 150 yards (about 140 meters) in an “unsafe manner,” according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.
Additionally, the US said a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month “performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” while intercepting a US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in the South China Sea, flying directly in front of the plane’s nose.
Those and previous incidents have raised concerns of a possible accident that could lead to an escalation between the two countries at a time when tensions are already high.
Li suggested that the US and its allies created the danger, and should instead focus on “taking care of your own territorial airspace and waters.”
“The best way is for countries, especially the countries’ naval vessels and fighter jets, not to take closing actions around the territories of other countries,” he said through an interpreter. . “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”
In a wide-ranging speech, Li reiterated many of Beijing’s well-known positions, including its claim to Taiwan, calling it “the core of our core interests.”
He accused the US and others of “interfering in China’s internal affairs” by providing Taiwan with defense support and training.and conducting high-level diplomatic visits.
“China remains committed to the path of peaceful development, but we will never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, even sacrificing the country’s core interests,” he said.
“Like the lyrics of a famous Chinese song: ‘When friends visit us, we welcome them with good wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with guns.’”
In his speech the day before, Austin broadly outlined the US vision for a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights.”
In pursuit of these, Austin said the US is strengthening planning, coordination and training with “friends from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean” with shared goals “to deter aggression and deepen the rules and norms that promote prosperity and prevent conflict.”
Li scoffed at the notion, saying “some countries are choosing to approach policies and international law.”
“It wants to force its own rules on others,” he said. “This so-called ‘rules-based international order’ never tells you what the rules are and who made these rules.”
On the contrary, he said, “we practice multilateralism and pursue win-win cooperation.”
Li is under American sanctions that are part of a broad package of measures against Russia – but which predate its invasion of Ukraine – imposed in 2018 over Li’s involvement in China’s purchase of aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles from Moscow.
The sanctions, which broadly prevent Li from doing business in the United States, do not prevent him from holding official talks, American defense officials said.
However, he declined Austin’s invitation to talk on the sidelines of the conference, although the two shook hands before sitting on opposite sides of the same table when the forum opened on Friday.
Austin says that’s not enough.
“A friendly handshake at dinner is no substitute for a meaningful engagement,” says Austin.
The US noted that since 2021 — even before Li became defense minister — China has refused or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from the US Defense Department to speak with senior leaders, including also many requests for standing dialogues and working-level interactions.
Li said that “China is open to communications between our two countries and also between our two militaries,” but without mentioning sanctions, said exchanges must be “based on mutual respect one.”
“That’s a very basic principle,” he said. “If we don’t respect each other, our communication won’t be productive.”
He said he recognizes that any “serious conflict or confrontation between China and the US would be an unbearable disaster for the world,” and that the two countries need to find ways to improve relations, saying that they are “at a record low.”
“History has proven time and time again that China and the United States will both benefit from cooperation and lose from confrontation,” he said.
“China aims to build a new type of core-country relationship with the United States. For the US side, it needs to act with sincerity, match its words with deeds, and take concrete actions with China to stabilize the relationship and prevent further deterioration,” Li said.