In a combative speech peppered with threats against the United States over its military presence in Asia, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said on Sunday (2 Jun) that China will fight anyone who tries to interfere in its “reunification” with Taiwan.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue at the Shangri-La hotel, General Wei said China would “fight to the end” if anyone tried to split China from Taiwan, which Beijing wants to take back by force if necessary.
China is getting angry with the US administration trying to increase support for Taiwan, including sending its Navy ships sailing through the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from mainland China.
The Pentagon has been increasing the frequency of ship movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China. Less than 2 months ago, US sent two Navy destroyers, the William P. Lawrence and Stethem, through the Taiwan Strait.
The voyage increased tension between China and US, but was welcomed by Taiwan. A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet said that the ships’ transit through the Strait demonstrated the US commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. In a statement, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense also echoed, “U.S. ships freely passing through the Taiwan Strait is part of the mission of carrying out the Indo-Pacific strategy.”
China will “fight at all costs”
Back in Shangri-La, General Wei warned, “No attempts to split China will succeed. Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure.”
“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs … The U.S. is indivisible, and so is China. China must be, and will be, reunified,” he added.
“The two sides realise that conflict, or a war between them, would bring disaster to both countries and the world.”
But US is not backing down. Yesterday (1 Jun), acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the Shangri-La meeting that the US would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behaviour in Asia.
Last month, Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met White House national security adviser John Bolton, marking the first meeting in more than four decades between senior US and Taiwanese security officials.
Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections in January, and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly accused Beijing of seeking to undermine Taiwan’s democracy and has vowed to defend the island and its freedoms.
Singapore to continue military training in Taiwan
Meanwhile, Singapore has assured Taiwan that Singapore’s military training agreement with Taiwan to send its troops for training there would remain in place.
Three years ago in Nov 2016, Beijing demanded Singapore respect its one-China policy and end military ties with Taiwan after nine armoured troop carriers were intercepted in Hong Kong. The vehicles were en route to Singapore from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung after being used in a military exercise under Project Starlight.
There were speculations that Singapore would pull out of Project Starlight. However, in Oct 2017, then Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lee told the media that Taiwan had been assured by Singapore that the military agreement would remain in place.
A diplomatic source said it was not in Singapore’s interest to succumb to pressure from Beijing. Singapore has already said it respected the one-China policy, the source said, and it expected Beijing to respect its sovereign right to conduct military training wherever it deemed appropriate.