China says it will 'resolutely smash any plot' after latest US move

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China is showing no signs of backing down in a potential conflict with the United States as tensions continue to ratchet up over the issue of Taiwan's independence.

The so-called Thucydides Trap – a theory which points to the likelihood of war when a rising power ascends to challenge an incumbent hegemon – appears to be alive and well.

In the latest war of words, China's defence minister complained to his US counterpart about the White House's latest arms package for Taiwan and warned of a possible conflict over the self-governing island which China claims as its own.

Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe told US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a meeting in Singapore that the sale "seriously undermined China's sovereignty and security interests," according to state broadcaster CCTV's military channel.

China "firmly opposes and strongly condemns it" and the Chinese government and military will "resolutely smash any Taiwan independence plot and resolutely safeguard the reunification of the motherland," Wei said.

China's State Councilor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe walks to attend a bilateral meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
China's State Councilor and Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe walks to attend a bilateral meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. Source: Reuters

China and Taiwan split during a civil war in 1949. China has steadfastly worked to isolate Taiwan on the international stage with president Xi Jinping repeatedly threatening to use force to bring the democratic island under the auspices of Beijing.

Despite their lack of formal diplomatic ties, the US is Taiwan's strongest backer and source of arms, and US law requires it to treat threats to the island as matters of "grave concern".

In the latest arms package, the US announced on Wednesday (local time) the sale of parts for Taiwanese naval ships at an estimated cost of $A170 million.

"The proposed sale will contribute to the sustainment of the recipient's surface vessel fleet, enhancing its ability to meet current and future threats," the US State Department said in its announcement of the sale.

US President Joe Biden has departed from normal policy, saying publicly he would defend Taiwan if China attacked.
US President Joe Biden has departed from normal policy, saying publicly he would defend Taiwan if China attacked. Source: Reuters

Some in Taiwan have been pushing for more big-ticket items, while the US is focused on selling smaller systems it says would better help repel a Chinese attack, leading to a rare area of disagreement between the two sides.

In other comments, Wei warned against "using Taiwan to control China" and laid out a list of conditions the US must meet for relations to improve, including "not interfering in China's internal affairs or harming China's interests".

In a further readout of the meeting, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Wu Qian quoted Wei as saying China would respond to any move toward formal Taiwan independence by "smashing it even at any price, including war".

Wu also accused "outside powers" of stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, and said it would "resolutely counter" any efforts to harm China's interests over the issue of Ukraine.

China has refused to criticise the Russian invasion and has accused the NATO military alliance of provoking Russia.

The combative tone, particularly over Taiwan, is typical of Chinese officials when meeting their US counterparts, reflecting the overall deterioration in bilateral ties.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference held each year in Singapore.

In contrast, Austin emphasised the need to "responsibly manage competition and maintain open lines of communication," according to the US Department of Defense.

He said the US remains committed to its longstanding policy on Taiwan and "reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the (Taiwan) Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo and called on (China) to refrain from further destabilising actions toward Taiwan," the DOD said.

with AP

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