China warns Austin of war on Taiwan if it declares independence

China warns Austin of war on Taiwan if it declares independence

China's defence minister warned that if Taiwan declares its independence, Beijing will not hesitate to start a war if it's the latest salvo between the superpowers over the island.

Wei Fenghe was in Singapore as he held his first face-to-face meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit.

Beijing views Taiwan as its territory and has pledged to seize the island, by force if necessary. US-China tensions over the issue have soared in recent months.

Wei warned Austin that if anyone decides to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter how big the cost defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian quoted as saying.

According to the Chinese defence ministry, the Chinese minister vowed that Beijing would smash any 'Taiwan independence' plot and uphold the unification of the motherland.

He stressed that Taiwan is China's Taiwan. The ministry said that using Taiwan to contain China will never prevail.

Austin called for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on China to abstain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan, according to the US Department of Defense.

During a visit to Japan last month, US President Joe Biden appeared to break decades of US policy when he said Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if it is attacked by China, which has escalated tensions over the island's air defence identification zone.

The White House has not changed its policy of strategic ambiguity over whether or not it will intervene.

With concerns over the Chinese-Taiwan tensions, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida issued a stark warning at the summit: Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow. The world must be prepared for the emergence of an entity that tramples on the peace and security of other countries by force or threat without honouring the rules, he said.

He didn't mention China by name in his address, but repeatedly called for the international order to be upheld.

Austin is the latest senior US official to visit Asia as Washington seeks to shift its foreign policy focus back to the region from the Ukraine war.

The United States, Taiwan, China and the United States have been locked in a range of other disputes.

Washington accuses Beijing of providing tacit support for Moscow, despite the fact that they have been in loggerheads over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

China has called for talks to end the war, but has stopped short of condemning Russia's actions and criticising American arms donations to Ukraine.

China's expansive claims in the South China Sea have sparked tensions with Washington.

China claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, through which trillions of dollars in shipping trade pass annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Austin arrived in Singapore late Thursday and held a series of meetings with his counterparts on Friday.

He spoke about Washington's strategy in maintaining an open, inclusive and rules-based regional security environment at a meeting with Southeast Asian defence ministers, according to a statement from the Singapore government.

His comments were a veiled reference to China's increasing assertiveness in the region.

Austin will give a speech at the forum on Saturday, followed by Wei on Sunday. The summit takes place from June 10 to 12 and is being held for the first time since 2019 after being postponed twice due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.