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China and U.S. clash again on trade and regional security

2019-06-02T093813Z_1_LYNXNPEF51095_RTROPTP_0_ASIA-SECURITY_2
China and the United States clashed again this weekend on trade and security, accusing each other of destabilizing the region and potentially the world.

Speaking on Sunday at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia’s premier defense summit, China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe warned the United States not to meddle in security disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

On Saturday, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the meeting that the United States would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behavior in Asia.

“Perhaps the greatest long-term threat to the vital interests of states across this region comes from actors who seek to undermine, rather than uphold, the rules-based international order,” Shanahan said.

It was the latest exchange of acerbic comments between the two sides as their ties come under increasing strain due to a bitter trade war, U.S. support for Taiwan and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

China has been particularly incensed by recent moves by President Donald Trump’s administration to increase support for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, including U.S. Navy sailings through the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from China.

Wei, dressed in his uniform of a general in the People’s Liberation Army, said China would “fight to the end” if anyone tried to interfere in its relationship with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a sacred territory to be taken by force if necessary.

“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs ... The U.S. is indivisible, and so is China. China must be, and will be, reunified.”

He however said both sides realized that any war between the two “would bring disaster to both countries and the world.”

The United States, like most countries, has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is its strongest backer and main source of weapons.

While Shanahan’s speech was critical of China, his tone was often conciliatory. Wei took a more combative approach.

Taiwan’s government condemned Wei’s remarks, saying Taiwan has never belonged to the People’s Republic of China, that Taiwan would never accept Beijing’s threats and that China’s claim of its “peaceful development” was the “lie of the century”.

Taiwan “will continue to strengthen its self-defence capabilities, defend the country’s sovereignty and democratic system, and uphold the right of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freely choose their future”, its Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

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