Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe criticised the United States on Sunday for its support for self-ruled Taiwan and for naval operations in the disputed South China Sea, but said conflict or war between the two countries would be a disaster.
Wei told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia’s premier defence summit, that China would “fight to the end” if anyone tried to split China from Taiwan, which Beijing considers a sacred territory to be taken by force if necessary.
“No attempts to split China will succeed. Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” said Wei.
He added: “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs … The US is indivisible, and so is China. China must be, and will be, reunified.”
But he said both sides realised that any war between the two “would bring disaster to both countries and the world”.
“We will strive for the process of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and greatest efforts but we make no promise to renounce the use of force.”
China-US ties have become increasingly strained due to a bitter trade war and US support for Taiwan and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the US is also conducting freedom-of-navigation patrols.
On Saturday, acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan told the meeting that the US would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behaviour in Asia.