China "would not hesitate" to go to war if Taiwan declared its independence, warned the Chinese Minister of Defense on Friday, during a meeting in Singapore with his American counterpart, devoted in particular to this subject of deep dispute between the two countries.
"If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate for a moment to start a war, whatever the cost," said a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Wu Qian, by reporting remarks by the Minister, Wei Fenghe, made during a meeting with the American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Beijing - which considers the island as an integral part of its territory - "would smash into a thousand pieces" any attempt at independence.
For his part, Lloyd Austin told Wei Fenghe that Beijing should "refrain" from any further destabilizing action in this region, according to the Pentagon.
He “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability in the Strait (of Taiwan), an opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo and called on (China) to refrain from any further destabilizing actions towards Taiwan” , according to the same source.
The two officials, who spoke by phone in April, were meeting for the first time since Mr Austin took office, on the sidelines of the “Shangri-la Dialogue” security forum, held until Sunday in Singapore , for the first time since 2019, due to the pandemic.
The points of contention have multiplied in recent years between the two countries: South China Sea, growing influence of China in Asia-Pacific, war in Ukraine or Taiwan.
China considers the island of 24 million people to be one of its historical provinces, even if it does not control it, and has increased pressure against Taipei in recent years, for example leading campaigns of incursions into the Taiwan Air Defense Zone.
On May 30, China thus carried out its second largest incursion of the year, with the entry, according to Taipei, of 30 planes into the air defense identification zone (Adiz, according to its acronym in English) of the island, including 20 hunters. By January 23, 39 planes had entered the Adiz.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saw the incursions as a sign of “increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity” from Beijing.
During a visit to Japan in May, President Joe Biden appeared to break with decades of American policy when in response to a question he indicated that Washington could militarily defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion by Beijing.
The White House has since insisted that "strategic ambiguity," the deliberately vague concept that has governed Washington's Taiwan policy for decades, remains unchanged.
The two powers are also at odds over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Washington accusing Beijing of tacit support for Moscow.
China has called for talks to end the war, but has not condemned Russia and has repeatedly criticized the supply of US weapons to Ukraine.
During their telephone conversation in April, the Chinese Minister of Defense had asked his American counterpart not to “slander, entrap, threaten or put pressure on China”.
The South China Sea is another source of tension.
China lays claim to almost the entire waterway through which trillions of dollars of trade pass each year. The area is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Beijing is ignoring a 2016 international court ruling that found its historical claims groundless.
In a meeting with Southeast Asian defense ministers, Lloyd Austin discussed the US strategy “to maintain an open, inclusive and law-based regional security environment,” according to a Singapore government statement. .
His comments were a veiled reference to China's increasingly assertive attitude in the region.