China’s defence chief repeats threat of force against Taiwanese independence

Estimated read time 4 min read

Peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan remains China’s goal but the prospect is being eroded by Taiwanese “separatists” and external forces, the Chinese defence minister, Dong Jun, has said.

Taiwan – which is democratically governed, and has never been ruled from the Communist-run People’s Republic of China – on 20 May inaugurated its newly elected president, Lai Ching-te. The routine democratic transition was greeted with fury by the Chinese Communist party, which staged war games around the island as a “punishment”.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore on Sunday, Dong said Taiwan was the “core of core issues” for China. He accused Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive party of incrementally pursuing separatism and working to erase Chinese identity.

Dong accused Taiwan’s leaders of “fanatical statements”, while employing fevered language of his own in his address to defence officials and politicians from around the world.

“They [‘separatists’] will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” he said. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has always been an indestructible and powerful force in defence of the unification of the motherland, and it will act resolutely and forcefully at all times to curb the independence of Taiwan and to ensure that it never succeeds in its attempts.

“Whoever dares to split Taiwan from China will be crushed to pieces and suffer his own destruction.”

Taiwan’s government said it deeply regretted the “provocative and irrational” remarks by Dong. China has repeatedly threatened Taiwan with force at international events, Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

After his speech, Dong was asked several questions by delegates but remained preoccupied with Taiwan and had to be prompted by the moderator to address other issues. He accused foreign powers of interfering in “domestic issues” and “emboldening Taiwan separatists”. “We’re very confident in our capability to deter Taiwan independence.”

China has been angered by US support for Taiwan, such as arms sales, though Washington – like most countries – does not diplomatically recognise Taiwan as a country in its own right.

“They are selling a lot of weapons to Taiwan,” said Dong. “This kind of behaviour sends very wrong signals to the Taiwan independence forces and makes them become very aggressive. I think we are clear that the foreign power’s true purpose is to use Taiwan to contain China.”

Andrew Yang, a former Taiwan defence minister, said Beijing had said it would pursue “reunification” by winning the hearts and minds of Taiwanese but “their deeds have yet to match their words”. Beijing was instead “holding a big stick” and was “confrontational and contradictory”, he said. Yang said he hoped the US would keep to its schedule of arms sales to Taiwan for self-defence.

Lai has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing, but been rebuffed. The Taiwanese president has called for China to cease hostile actions and said only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

The annual security forum in Singapore led to the first substantive face-to-face talks in 18 months between the defence chiefs of China and the US as Dong met with Lloyd Austin. “We have always been open to exchanges and cooperation, but this requires both sides to meet each other halfway,” Dong told the forum. “We believe that we need more exchanges precisely because there are differences between our two militaries.”

Dong and Austin met for over an hour. After the meeting, Austin said phone conversations between US and Chinese military commanders would resume “in the coming months”. China scrapped military communications with the US in 2022 because the then US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse


You May Also Like

More From Author