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China’s defense minister accuses the US of causing friction with its support for Taiwan and the Philippines

SINGAPORE – China’s defense minister on Sunday acknowledged the importance of recently renewed military-to-military communications with the United States as tensions escalate in the Asia-Pacific, while accusing Washington of causing friction with its support for Taiwan and the United States. Philippines.

“We will not allow anyone to bring geopolitical conflict or any war, hot or cold, to our region,” Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun told the Shangri-La defense forum in Singapore through a translator.

“We will not allow any country or power to cause conflict and chaos in our region,” he added.

China has become increasingly assertive in asserting its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, a key global shipping lane, which has led to a growing number of conflicts, particularly with the Philippines, where ships have been rammed and hit by Chinese vessels by Chinese ships. water cannons.

Dong emphasized that China’s “strategic culture is anchored in universal love and non-aggression,” before threatening the Philippines, which has quickly become pro-American since the 2022 election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

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Since territorial hostilities with China soared in the South China Sea last year, the Marcos Jr. government has took steps to forge new security alliances with a number of Asian and Western countries and in 2014 allowed an increased US military presence in more Philippine bases. defense pact.

Dong accused the Philippines of deliberately provoking China, “encouraged by outside powers.”

“China has recognized great reluctance toward such intrusions and provocations,” he said. “But there is a limit to our restraint.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday that U.S. support for the Philippines was “rock solid” and praised Marcos’ Friday speech at the forum as a strong statement “on how the Philippines stands up for its sovereign rights under international law.” ”

Austin also stressed the importance of renewing military-to-military communications between China and the US to avoid “misconceptions” and “miscalculations.”

“There are a number of things that can happen at sea or in the air, we realize that,” he said. “But our goal is to ensure that things do not get out of hand unnecessarily.”

Dong is a former naval commander who was appointed in late December after his predecessor, Li Shangfu, was abruptly removed from office.

Dong met Austin on Friday on the sidelines of the forum in Singapore, which marked the first face-to-face talks between Chinese and US defense officials since contacts between the two countries’ militaries were severed in 2022 after then-US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, was visiting Taiwan, which enrages Beijing.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province that must be brought under its control, if necessary by force.

The US, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by its own laws to give the island the means to defend itself. Washington is Taiwan’s largest supplier of military hardware and congressional delegations regularly visit Taiwan’s leaders.

Dong said China “remains open to exchanges and cooperation with the US military,” but added that “this requires efforts from both sides.”

He accused the US of encouraging Taiwan’s new government, which has refused to accept Beijing’s insistence that the island is part of China, to “pursue a step-by-step separation.”

“We will take decisive action to curb Taiwan’s independence and ensure that such a plot never succeeds,” he said. “Anyone who dares to separate Taiwan from China will only end in self-destruction.”

AP reporter Ken Moritsugu contributed to this story from Hong Kong.

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