Taiwan war would be ‘devastating,’ US warns while criticising China at Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore

  • China
  • Saturday, 03 Jun 2023

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (third from right) posing for photos with South-East Asian defence ministers at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on Saturday, June 3, 2023. - AFP

SINGAPORE, June 3 (dpa): Conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be "devastating," US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned on Saturday, in a speech at a security conference that provoked a sharp reaction from China.

The whole world had a stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, Austin said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"The security of commercial shipping lanes and global supply chains depends on it. And so does freedom of navigation worldwide. Make no mistake: conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be devastating," he said.

The US was "determined" to maintain peace and security in the area, he said.

"And so are a number of other countries around the world and that number continues to grow."

China in turn accused Austin of "false accusations."

Responding to his speech in Singapore, a spokesman for the Chinese delegation, Jing Jianfeng, said that the US was continuing a policy of domination in the Indo-Pacific.

The US was provoking a confrontation between blocs, he said, according to Chinese state media.

The US was expanding its troop deployments, holding regular military drills and was undermining peace and stability, he said.

Austin had earlier asked his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu to meet on the sidelines of the conference. However, the Chinese side refused.

Ahead of the talks, Li said China retains the right to use force to incorporate Taiwan into its territory, while continuing to seek peaceful "reunification."

Taiwan has been independent since 1949, but China considers the self-ruled democracy to be Chinese territory.

Austin said he was "deeply concerned" that China "has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management."

"For responsible defence leaders, the right time to talk is anytime, the right time to talk is everytime and the right time to talk is now," he said.

Li is expected to outline China's new security agenda on Sunday.

The Shangri-La Dialogue at the level of defence ministers is seen as the most significant security forum in the region. Forty countries have sent representatives.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, who met Li on Saturday, called for increased efforts to de-escalate the conflict over Taiwan.

"We are not served well by isolating China," he said on Saturday in Singapore after the official talks.

Pistorius said there were multiple connections and interdependencies that could not simply be ignored. "So we have to minimize our risks, we have to reduce our dependencies," Pistorius said.

Pistorius also called on Li to stop a Chinese training programme that used former German fighter pilots.

"I made it clear that I expect this practice to be stopped immediately," Pistorius said.

Li had reacted very cautiously, Pistorius said.

Former fighter pilots from Germany have been training military pilots in China for years, according to German news magazine Spiegel and public broadcaster ZDF. - dpa

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US , Taiwan , China , Escalating , Issues , Problems


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