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4 Jun, 2023 15:30

China warns of ‘unbearable disaster’

Beijing and Washington should be seeking common ground despite all their differences, Defense Minister Li Shangfu said
China warns of ‘unbearable disaster’

A military conflict between China and the US would have terrible consequences not only for the two countries, but for the whole world, Beijing’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu has said.

“China and the US have different systems and are different in many other ways. However, this shouldn’t keep the two sides from seeking common ground and common interests to grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation,” Li suggested during his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore on Sunday.

“It’s undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world,” he added.

The Chinese defense minister also warned that “a Cold War mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks.” He didn’t mention Washington and its allies directly, but said “some countries” had been intensifying the arms race and interfering in the internal affairs of other nations.

According to the minister, those trying to create “NATO-like” military blocs in the Indo-Pacific are looking “to hold countries in the region hostage and play up conflict and confrontation.” He was apparently referring to the AUKUS pact agreed between the US, UK and Australia in 2021.

Li also reiterated Beijing’s stance that “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan, and how to resolve the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese to decide.”

US President Joe Biden has pledged on several occasions that Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if Beijing decided to use force to take control over the self-governed island. Earlier this year, the media got hold of a memo from the head of US Air Mobility Command, General Mike Minihan, who speculated that Washington and Beijing could go to war over Taiwan by 2025.

During his speech at the summit on Saturday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin criticized his Chinese counterpart for refusing to hold a meeting with him in Singapore. “The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict,” he argued.

Two Chinese military officers told Reuters that, before military contacts could resume, Beijing wanted to see clear signs of a less confrontational approach in Asia from Washington, including the revocation of sanctions against Li.

Li, who was appointed as defense minister in mid-March, was blacklisted by the US in 2018 for purchasing weapons from Russia while he was head of China’s Equipment Development Department.

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