China ready to ‘forcefully’ stop Taiwan independence: Defence minister


Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun says his military is ready to “forcefully” stop Taiwan’s independence, but called for greater exchanges with the United States over the issue.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore on Sunday, Dong said Taiwan was the “core of core issues” for China, but Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party is incrementally pursuing separatism and bent on erasing Chinese identity.

China views Taiwan as its own territory despite strong objections from Taipei, and last month staged war games around the island in anger at the May 20 inauguration of President William Lai Ching-te, whom Beijing calls a “separatist”.

“Those separatists recently made fanatical statements that show their betrayal of the Chinese nation and their ancestors. They will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” Dong said, adding that China was committed to peaceful reunification with Taiwan.

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has always been an indestructible and powerful force in defence of the unification of the motherland, and it will act resolutely and forcefully at all times to curb the independence of Taiwan and to ensure that it never succeeds in its attempts,” Dong told the forum on Sunday.

“Whoever dares to split Taiwan from China will be crushed to pieces and suffer his own destruction.”

Reacting to the Chinese minister’s statements, Taiwan’s government said it deeply regretted the “provocative and irrational” remarks.

Dong’s remarks in Singapore followed the first substantive face-to-face talks in 18 months between the defence chiefs of China and the US. Dong and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met for more than an hour at the luxury hotel hosting the forum.

“We have always been open to exchanges and cooperation, but this requires both sides to meet each other halfway,” Dong told the Shangri-La Dialogue. “We believe that we need more exchanges precisely because there are differences between our two militaries.”

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

President Joe Biden’s administration and China have been stepping 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 critical to preventing flashpoint disputes from spinning out of control.

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

On the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely and where it has been involved in frequent confrontations with Philippine vessels, Dong warned of “limits” to Beijing’s restraint.

“China has maintained sufficient restraint in the face of rights infringements and provocation, but there are limits to this,” Dong said.

China accuses the US of using the Philippines as a “pawn” to stir up trouble in the South China Sea.__Al Jazeera