Shangri-La Dialogue: Supporters of Taiwan independence face ‘self-destruction’, warns China’s new defense minister


Singapore
CNN

Taiwan seeks independence gradually, and those who support it “will end up destroying themselves.” China The new defense minister warned Sunday in a wide-ranging speech at a security summit in Singapore as the extent of regional tensions came into stark relief.

Minister of National Defense Admiral Dong Jun made the comments in a roughly 30-minute speech, which came days after Beijing organized… Major military maneuvers It then encircles the island of Taiwan It was inaugurated by its new democratically elected president Last month.

“We will take resolute measures to limit Taiwan’s independence and ensure that such a plot never succeeds,” Dong said, speaking through an interpreter, while criticizing “intervening external forces” for selling weapons and conducting “illegal official communications” with Taiwan, in what appears to be a violation of the law. International. In reference to the United States, which maintains close and informal relations with Taiwan.

“China remains committed to peaceful reunification. This prospect is increasingly being eroded by separatists demanding Taiwan independence and foreign forces,” Dong warned.

His comments come amid growing concern in the region about Beijing’s military and economic intimidation of Taiwan, which has become more evident under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

in Meeting with Dong On Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called on China not to “use the political transition in Taiwan – which is part of a normal, routine democratic process – as an excuse to take coercive measures.”

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the autonomous democracy as its own, even though it has never controlled it, and has pledged to “reunify” it with it, by force if necessary. Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, and his party, the Democratic Progressive Party, are openly hated by Beijing for their advocacy of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

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Lai said he preferred the status quo, declaring that “Taiwan is already an independent, sovereign country” so “there is no plan or need” to declare independence. The United States, through its long-term policy, supports neither Taiwan independence nor unilateral change of the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

“Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party authorities are seeking secession in a gradual manner. They are determined to erase their Chinese identity in Taiwan and sever social, historical and cultural ties across the Taiwan Strait,” Dong said, repeating Beijing’s rhetoric that they will be “nailed to the pillar of shame in history.”

Opinion polls show that increasing numbers of the island’s population – especially young people – see themselves as distinctly Taiwanese and have no desire to be part of China, a one-party state that is authoritarian compared to Taiwan’s democracy. Now less than 10% support immediate or eventual unification, and only 3% consider themselves primarily Chinese – while 67% see themselves primarily as Taiwanese.

Dong, a former naval commander, made his first appearance at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue Summit after… Appointing him to his position Late last year after a sudden change in the Chinese Ministry of Defense.

The gathering comes amid a contentious security landscape across the region, with China widely seen by its neighbors as using its military power to assert its disputed territorial claims and seek military status in a part of the world where the United States has deep security ties.

Chinese ships and aircraft have been widely documented patrolling and conducting aggressive maneuvers against others operating in international waters and skies amid its disputed claims in the East and South China Seas.

But Dong painted a different vision of China in his speech, portraying it as a benign power “whose military never acts from a so-called position of strength,” while taking an oblique shot at the United States, saying: “We will not allow anyone to bring geopolitical conflicts or any war, whether Hot or cold in our region.

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The Chinese defense minister also said there were “limits” to China’s restraint when it comes to “provocations” in the South China Sea, in an apparent reference to the Philippines, a US ally, which Dong did not directly name.

Dong said that “a certain country” was “emboldened” by external forces and “conducted mediated provocations,” while indirectly referring to the deployment of a US missile system during military exercises in the Philippines in April.

China has militarized islands in the disputed South China Sea, and in recent months the Chinese Coast Guard has fired water cannons and sought to confront Philippine ships operating in the disputed areas, exacerbating tensions in the key strategic waterway.

China claims historic rights over much of the South China Sea, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague in favor of the Philippines against that claim.

Dong’s comments come after Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday condemned illegal, coercive and aggressive actions in the South China Sea during the opening of the same defense forum in Singapore. He also warned that the killing of any Filipino national by another country in the South China Sea would be “very close” to an act of war.

China’s defense minister also rejected concerns expressed by the United States that dual-use exports from China are bolstering Russia’s defense industrial base as it wages war in Ukraine.

“We never provided weapons to either side of the conflict. We established stricter control on the export of dual-use items and did absolutely nothing to fan the flames,” Dong said.

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The issue was raised during a meeting between Dong and his US counterpart Austin – the first direct talks between US and Chinese defense since 2022, with Austin signaling to China that there would be consequences if Beijing continued to support Russia militarily.

Dong said China “remains open to exchanges and cooperation with the US military.”

The annual security forum in Singapore – hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies – is a rare gathering of senior military officials from across the Asia-Pacific region, including those who compete geopolitically or view each other warily.

It is also a rare opportunity to listen to and ask questions from China’s senior military leaders.

Many of the questions directed to Dong by delegates revolved around China’s increasing aggression across the region, especially towards Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.

Robert Ward, head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Japan, told CNN he felt Dong’s tone was “harsher” than he had seen in previous speeches by Chinese defense leaders at the gathering.

“The strategic environment in Asia is actually becoming more tense and I think we saw that in the Chinese Defense Minister’s speech today,” Ward said.

He added: “The tone was much more difficult this year than it was last year.”

Meanwhile, a senior US official had the following assessment.

“Every year for three years, a new Chinese defense minister comes to Shangri-La,” the official told CNN. Every year, they deliver a speech that is diametrically opposed to the reality of the PLA’s coercive activity throughout the region. This year was no different.”

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