SINGAPORE (AP) — China’s defense minister defended the sailing of a warship en route by an American destroyer and Canadian frigate crossing the Taiwan Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world’s top defense officials in Singapore on Sunday that such a so-called “freedom from… “Navigation” patrols are a provocation for China.
In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in March, General Li Shangfu told Shangri-La Dialogue that China has no problems with “innocent passage” but that “we must prevent attempts that seek to exploit these freedoms.” .” Navigation (patrols), that innocent passage to exercise the hegemony of navigation.”
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the same forum on Saturday that Washington would not flinch “in the face of harassment or coercion” from China and would continue to regularly sail and fly through the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to emphasize that these are international waters, and thereby countering Beijing’s far-reaching territorial claims.
On the same day, a US guided missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship while crossing the straits between the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China. The Chinese ship overtook the American ship and then spun 150 yards (about 140 meters) over its bow in an “unsafe manner”, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.
In addition, the US has a Chinese J-16 fighter jet Late last month, he “performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” when he intercepted a US Air Force reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea, flying right under the plane’s nose.
This and previous incidents have raised concerns about a possible accident that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time when tensions are already high.
Li suggested that the US and its allies created the danger and should instead focus on “taking good care of their own territorial airspace and waters.”
“The best way is that countries, especially countries’ naval vessels and fighter jets, do not conduct lockdown operations around other countries’ territory,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China, we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”
In a wide-ranging speech, Li reiterated many of Beijing’s well-known positions, including its claim to Taiwan, calling it “the core of our core interests.”
“China remains true to the path of peaceful development, but we will never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, much less sacrifice the nation’s core interests,” he said.
“The lyrics of a well-known Chinese song are: ‘When friends come to visit, we greet them with good wine. If jackals or wolves come, we will meet them with shotguns.’”
In his speech the day before, Austin broadly outlined the US vision for a “free, open and secure Indo-Pacific in a world ruled and ruled”.
To achieve this, Austin said the US is stepping up planning, coordination and training with “friends from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean” with common goals “to deter aggression and deepen rules and norms.” . that promote prosperity and prevent conflict.”
Li scoffed at the notion, saying, “Some country takes a selective approach to rules and international laws.”
“He likes to impose his own rules on others,” he said. “His so-called ‘rules-based international order’ never tells you what the rules are and who made those rules.”
In contrast, he said, “we practice multilateralism and strive for win-win cooperation.”
Li is under US sanctions, part of a broader package of measures against Russia – albeit before its invasion of Ukraine – imposed in 2018 over Li’s involvement in China’s purchase of fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles from Moscow.
The sanctions, which largely prevent Li from doing business in the United States, do not prevent him from holding official talks, American defense officials said.
Quiet, He declined Austin’s invitation for an interview on the sidelines of the conference, though the pair shook hands before sitting down together on opposite sides of the same table as the forum opened on Friday.
Austin said that wasn’t enough.
“A warm handshake at dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement,” Austin said.
The US has noted that since 2021 – long before Li became secretary of defense – China has refused or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from the US Department of Defense to speak to senior officials, as well as several requests for ongoing dialogue and working talks. level engagements.
Li said that “China is open to communication between our two countries and also between our two militaries,” but without mentioning the sanctions, he said the exchanges must be “based on mutual respect.”
“It’s a very basic principle,” he said. “If we don’t even have mutual respect, our communication will not be productive.”
He said he recognizes that “any major conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable catastrophe for the world” and that the two countries must find ways to improve ties, saying they are “on one.” record low”.
“History has proven time and time again that both China and the United States will benefit from cooperation and lose from confrontation,” he said.
“China is striving to build a new type of relationship between major countries and the United States. As for the US side, it must act righteously, walk the talk and take concrete measures together with China to stabilize ties and prevent further deterioration,” Li said.