This declaration sounds like a response to that, the day before, of the American Minister of Defense, Lloyd Austin, who had denounced the military activity “provocative and destabilizing” of Beijing near Taiwan.
This verbal contest between these two superpowers comes in a context of strong diplomatic tensions over the autonomous and democratic island, which Beijing considers to be an integral part of its territory.
Unprecedented incursions by Chinese military aircraft into the Taiwanese air defense zone have heightened tensions in recent months.
“We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the end. This is the only choice for China,” Wei Fenghe said in an offensive tone during the “Shangri-Dialogue” security forum. The” in Singapore.
“Those who pursue Taiwanese independence with the aim of dividing China will certainly not achieve their ends,” he said. “No one should ever underestimate the determination and ability of China’s armed forces to safeguard its territorial integrity.”
Mr Wei urged Washington to “stop denigrating and restraining China … stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop harming China’s interests”.
But he was also more conciliatory, calling for a “stable” China-US relationship, which he said is “vital for world peace”.
During his speech, Mr. Austin on Saturday denounced China’s “provocative and destabilizing” military activity near Taiwan, the day after a firm warning from Beijing.
“We are seeing increasing coercion from Beijing. We have seen a continued increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan,” the Pentagon chief said.
– ‘Absurd claims’ –
But he also stressed the importance of keeping “open lines of communication with China’s defense officials” to avoid miscalculations.
The pair had their first one-on-one talk on the sidelines of the Singapore summit on Friday, where they clashed over Taiwan.
China considers this island of 24 million inhabitants to be one of its historic provinces which it intends to take back by force if necessary.
According to a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Wei Fenghe said Friday during a meeting with Mr. Austin on the sidelines of this forum: “If anyone dared to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army would not hesitate a moment to start a war, whatever the cost”.
Beijing would “smash into a thousand pieces” any attempt at independence, the Chinese Ministry of Defense has warned.
For his part, Mr. Austin told Mr. Wei that Beijing should “refrain” from any further destabilizing action in this region, according to the Pentagon.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry responded on Saturday by saying it rejected Beijing’s “absurd claims”.
President Joe Biden, during a visit to Japan last month, appeared to break with decades of US policy when, in response to a question, he said Washington would militarily defend Taiwan if attacked by China.
The White House has since insisted that its policy of “strategic ambiguity” over possible intervention has not changed.
Analysts said the fact that Mr. Austin and Mr. Wei met in person is a small sign of hope.
– “Important first step” –
“But I think at this stage we won’t see any breakthroughs. Maybe it will lead to something in the future,” Ian Chong, a political science professor at AFP, told AFP. the National University of Singapore, which participates in the forum.
This dispute is only the latest between Washington and Beijing.
The South China Sea is another major hotspot in the region. China claims almost all of this resource-rich sea.
While the tone has risen between the two superpowers, relations between Australia and China have on the other hand shown signs of appeasement, the ministers of these two countries meeting Sunday for the first time in three years.
Exchanges described by the Australian Minister of Defense Richard Marles as “an important first step”.
Relations between these two countries have been at their lowest since Canberra called in 2020 for an independent inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic.
For his part, Fiji’s defense minister warned that the biggest threat to his country was climate change, not conflict.
“Machine guns, fighter jets, ships…are not our primary security concern,” Inia Seruiratu said.