The Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu has warned that conflict with the USA would be an ‘unbearable disaster’ for the world – as Washington accused the People’s Liberation Army of responsibility for a second ‘unsafe’ incident in a week.
‘China and the US have different systems and are different in many other ways,’ he said in a speech that marked his first significant international address since he was named China’s Minister of National Defence in March.
‘However, this should not keep the two sides from seeking common ground and common interests to grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation,’ he said.
‘It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world.’
Speaking at Asia’s top security summit, Li Shangfu, dressed in the uniform of a PLA general, said the world was big enough for China and the US to grow together
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin (pictured) rebuked China in a speech at the security meeting in Singapore on Saturday for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over their differences
Ties between Washington and Beijing are badly strained over a range of issues, including democratically ruled Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and President Joe Biden’s restrictions on semiconductor chip exports.
In their latest row, China’s military criticised the United States and Canada for ‘deliberately provoking risk’ after the countries’ navies staged a rare joint sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Saturday.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin rebuked China in a speech at the security meeting in Singapore on Saturday for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over their differences.
Li was more restrained in his speech, although he took thinly veiled digs at the United States, accusing ‘some countries’ of intensifying an arms race and wilfully interfering in the internal affairs of others.
‘A Cold War mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks,’ he said. ‘Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony.’
Li, sanctioned by the United States in 2018 over weapons purchases from Russia, shook hands with Austin at a dinner on Friday but the two have not had a deeper discussion, despite repeated US demands for more military exchanges.
Speaking privately on the sidelines of the conference, two Chinese military officers said that Beijing wanted clear signs from Washington of a less confrontational approach in Asia – including the dropping of sanctions against Li – before military-to-military talks could resume.
Meanwhile, a Chinese ship manoeuvred in an ‘unsafe manner’ near an American destroyer transiting the sensitive Strait, the US military said on Saturday.
It is the second close encounter between American and Chinese military assets in less than 10 days, following what the US military said was an ‘unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre’ by one of Beijing’s fighter’s near one of Washington’s surveillance planes last week.
The Chinese ship ‘executed manoeuvres in an unsafe manner in the vicinity of Chung-Hoon,’ an American destroyer, during the Saturday transit, the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) said in a statement.
Beijing’s ship ‘overtook Chung-Hoon on their port side and crossed their bow at 150 yards. Chung-Hoon maintained course and slowed to 10 (knots) to avoid a collision,’ the statement said.
It then ‘crossed Chung-Hoon’s bow a second time starboard to port at 2,000 yards (meters) and remained off Chung-Hoon’s port bow,’ coming within 150 yards at the closest point, the US military said, adding that the ‘US military flies, sails, and operates safely and responsibly anywhere international law allows.’
US warships frequently sail through the strait. The last joint US-Canada passage was in September 2022.
The Taiwan Strait ship encounter followed what the US military characterized as a risky manoeuvre by a Chinese jet that ‘flew directly in front of and within 400 feet of the nose’ of an RC-135 surveillance plane on May 26 over the South China Sea.