China ready to ‘forcefully’ stop Taiwan independence: Defence minister

Dong Jun says ‘whoever dares to split Taiwan from China will be crushed to pieces and suffer his own destruction’.

China's Defence Minister Dong Jun speaks during the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore [Vincent Thian/AP]

Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun has said the country’s military was ready to “forcefully” stop Taiwan’s independence, in a fiery speech at a Singapore security forum.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore on Sunday, Dong said the self-ruled democracy of Taiwan was the “core of core issues” for China, but claimed Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was incrementally pursuing separatism and bent on erasing Chinese identity.

China views Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve unification.

Last month it staged two days of war games around the island after the May 20 inauguration of President William Lai Ching-te. Lai and the DPP say it is up to the people of Taiwan to decide their future. Beijing calls him a “separatist”.

“Those separatists recently made fanatical statements that show their betrayal of the Chinese nation and their ancestors. They will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” Dong 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,” Dong told the forum on Sunday.

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

Reacting to the Chinese minister’s statements, Taiwan’s government said it deeply regretted the “provocative and irrational” remarks.

 

Dong’s comments in Singapore followed the first substantive face-to-face talks in 18 months between the defence chiefs of China and the US. Dong and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met for more than an hour at the luxury hotel hosting the forum.

“We have always been open to exchanges and cooperation, but this requires both sides to meet each other halfway,” Dong said. “We believe that we need more exchanges precisely because there are differences between our two militaries.”

After the meeting, Austin said telephone conversations between US and Chinese military commanders would resume “in the coming months”, while Beijing hailed the “stabilising” security relations between the two countries.

President Joe Biden’s administration and China have been stepping up communication to ease friction between the nuclear-armed rivals, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Beijing and Shanghai last month.

A key focus has been the resumption of military-to-military dialogue, which is seen as critical to preventing flashpoint disputes from spinning out of control.

China scrapped military communications with the US in 2022 in response to then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

On the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely and where it has been involved in frequent confrontations with Philippine vessels, Dong warned of “limits” to Beijing’s restraint.

Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun, right, and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at a meeting in Singapore
Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun, right, and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at their meeting in Singapore [Chad J McNeeley/US Department of Defense via Reuters]

China has fired water cannon at Philippine vessels in contested waters at Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing seized from the Philippines after a months-long stand-off in 2012.

“China has maintained sufficient restraint in the face of rights infringements and provocation, but there are limits to this,” Dong said.

China accuses the US of using the Philippines as a “pawn” to stir up trouble in the South China Sea.

After the Scarborough Shoal incident, Manila took its case to international arbitration. The court found in favour of the Philippines, and that China’s claims had no legal basis. Beijing has ignored the ruling.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies