China accuses US of trying to ‘hijack’ aid in Asia

(SINGAPORE) – China’s defense minister on Sunday accused the United States of trying to “hijack” aid from countries in the Asia-Pacific region to turn them against Beijing, saying Washington is seeking to advance its own interests “under the guise of multilateralism” .”

Defense Secretary General Wei Fenghe lashed out at US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, dismissing his “filthy accusation” the day before during the Shangri-La Dialogue that China was causing instability with its claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan and its increased military. activity in the area.

Austin had emphasized the need for multilateral partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific, which Wei suggested was an attempt to corner China.

“No country should impose its will on others or bully others under the guise of multilateralism,” he said. “The strategy is an attempt to build an exclusive small group in the name of a free and open Indo-Pacific to hijack countries in our region and target one specific country – it is a strategy to avoid conflict and confrontation. to restrain and surround others. †

China has been rapidly modernizing its military and seeking to expand its influence and ambitions in the region, recently signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands that many fear could lead to a Chinese naval base in the Pacific, and has been breaking new ground in the past week. performed work on a naval port expansion project in Cambodia that could give Beijing a foothold in the Gulf of Thailand.

Last year, US officials accused China of testing a hypersonic missile, a weapon that is more difficult to combat by missile defense systems, but China insisted it had been a “routine test of a spacecraft.”

When answering a question about the test on Sunday, Wei came closest to acknowledging that it was indeed a hypersonic missile, saying: “As for hypersonic weapons, many countries are developing weapons and I think it’s no surprise that China is doing this.”

“China will develop its military,” he added. “I think it’s natural.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that China poses the “most serious long-term challenge to the international order” for the United States, with its claims to Taiwan and efforts to dominate the strategic South China Sea.

The US and its allies have responded with so-called freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, sometimes meeting backlash from the Chinese military.

Wei accused the US of “interfering in the affairs of our region” with the patrols, and “flexing its muscles by sending warships and warplanes on a rampage in the South China Sea.”

China has settled maritime claims with the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, and Wei said it is up to countries in the region to find their own solutions.

“China is calling for the South China Sea to be a sea of ​​peace, friendship and cooperation,” he said. “This is the shared desire and responsibility of countries in the region.”

Taiwan and China broke up during a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory and does not rule out using military force to take it, while insisting it is a domestic political issue.

Washington follows a “one-China” policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. It supplies weapons to Taiwan and follows a “strategic ambiguity” approach about how far it would be willing to go to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion. At the same time, it does not support Taiwanese independence.

President Joe Biden raised eyebrows last month, expressing China’s anger when he said the US would intervene militarily if Taiwan was attacked, though the White House later said the comments did not reflect a change in policy.

Austin accused China on Saturday of threatening to change the status quo on Taiwan with a “steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity” near the island.

Wei fired back on Sunday that the US was not adhering to its “one-China” policy, saying “it continues to play the Taiwanese card against China.”

He said China’s “greatest wish” was a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, but also made it clear that Beijing was ready to do whatever it takes to achieve its goals.

“China will certainly realize its reunification,” he said. “China’s reunification is a great cause of the Chinese nation, and it is a historic trend that no one and no power can stop.”

He added that China would “resolutely crush any attempt to pursue Taiwan’s independence”.

“We will not hesitate to fight, we will fight at all costs and we will fight to the end,” he said. “This is the only choice for China.”

Wei and Austin met one-on-one on Saturday, and Taiwan played a prominent role in their discussions, according to the US

On Sunday, Wei met with Australian Defense Secretary Richard Marles, who, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. was the first high-level meeting between the two countries in over two years.

Marles said it had been three years since the Chinese and Australian defense ministers met, calling the meeting a “critical first step.”

“If sec. Austin noted after his own meeting with Defense Secretary Wei that it is very important in these times to have open dialogue,” he told reporters.

“The relationship between Australia and China is complex and it is precisely because of this complexity that it is really important that we engage in dialogue now.”

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