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China ready to ‘forcefully’ stop Taiwan independence

The Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun has warned his military is ready to “forcefully” stop Taiwan independence but called for greater exchanges with the United States.

The remarks at an annual security forum in Singapore followed the first substantive face-to-face talks in 18 months between the two countries’ defence chiefs.

“We have always been open to exchanges and cooperation, but this requires both sides to meet each other halfway,” Mr Dong told the Shangri-La Dialogue where he met with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday.

Mr Dong and Mr Austin met for over an hour at the luxury hotel hosting the forum, which is attended by defence officials from around the world and in recent years has been seen as a barometer of US-China relations.

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

Dong Jun and Lloyd Austin met for over an hour at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday

This year’s Shangri-La Dialogue comes a week after China held military drills around self-ruled Taiwan and warned of war over the island following the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, who China has described as a “separatist”.

“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,” Mr Dong told the forum.

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

A screen in Beijing shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan

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

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

Flashpoint disputes

The US President Joe Biden’s administration and China have been stepping up communication to ease friction between the 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 United States in 2022 in response to the-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

China is also furious over the United States’ deepening defence ties in the Asia-Pacific, particularly with the Philippines, and its regular deployment of warships and fighter jets in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

The two sides agreed last November to restart high-level military talks, including military operations near Taiwan, Japan and in the South China Sea.

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