China accuses US of interfering in Pacific relations

China has rapidly modernized its military and sought to expand its influence in the region, forge alliances and expand its power in the Pacific.

China’s defense minister on Sunday accused the United States of trying to “hijack” support from Asia-Pacific countries to turn it against Beijing and said Washington was trying to advance its own interests “under the guise of multilateralism.” .

Defense Secretary General Wei Fenghe lashed out at US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, dismissing his “slanderous accusation” at the Shangri-La Dialogue the previous day that China was using its claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan and its “destabilizing military activities” in the region.

Austin had stressed the need for multilateral partnerships with Indo-Pacific nations, which Wei said was an attempt to corner China.

“No country should impose its will on others or harass 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 a specific country – it is a strategy to create conflict and confrontation to contain others and encircle. ”

China has rapidly modernized its military and sought to expand its influence and ambitions in the region. It recently signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands that many fear could result in a Chinese naval base in the Pacific, and last week broke ground 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 harder for missile defense systems to counter, but China insisted it was a “routine test of a spacecraft”.

Answering a question about the test on Sunday, Wei came closest to finding that it was indeed a hypersonic missile, saying, “As far as hypersonic weapons go, many countries are developing weapons, and I think it’s no surprise that.” China does this.”

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

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

The US and its allies have responded with so-called freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, sometimes met with 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 killing spree in the South China Sea.”

China has been at odds with the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, over maritime claims, and Wei said it’s up to countries in the region to find their own solutions.

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

Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory and has not ruled out using military force to take it, while claiming it is a domestic affair.

Washington follows a “one China” policy that recognizes Beijing but allows for informal and defensive ties with Taipei. It arms Taiwan and has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about how far it would go to defend Taiwan in the face of a Chinese invasion. At the same time, it does not support Taiwan’s independence.

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

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

Wei countered on Sunday that the US is not sticking to its “one China” policy, saying “they continue to play the Taiwan card against China.”

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

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

He added that China will “resolutely crush any attempt to seek Taiwan 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.”

Rising reports from Bangkok. Zen Soo in Hong Kong and Caroline Chen in Beijing contributed to this report. China accuses US of interfering in Pacific relations

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