HomeAsiaBeijing seeks 'dialogue on confrontation', says defense chief

Beijing seeks ‘dialogue on confrontation’, says defense chief

China’s defense minister told a major regional security forum on Sunday that Beijing is seeking dialogue on the confrontation, hours after a Chinese warship was accused of nearly colliding with a US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.

General Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has proposed a set of so-called Global Security Initiatives (GSIs) that features “confrontational dialogue, partnership about alliance and win-win about zero sum”.

In an apparent reference to the US, Li accused “some country” of taking a “selective approach to international rules and laws” and “imposing its own rules on others.”

“It practices exceptionalism and double standards and only serves the interests and follows the rules of a small number of countries.”

The minister said that “even attempts to restrict others with a convention to which it has not adhered,” pointing to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982 that the United States, while recognizing it, does not it’s part. of.

The United States and China have been at loggerheads on a number of issues, including China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea and the US’s Freedom of Shipping Operations (FONOP) to uphold its principle of a free Indo-Pacific. and open.

China has repeatedly accused the United States of “navigation hegemony” in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the US military said a Chinese warship nearly collided with a US destroyer on Saturday as the latter sailed through the Taiwan Strait during a joint US-Canada mission.

near collision

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a declaration that its guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Montreal were conducting a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” through international waters in the Strait.

During the transit, a Chinese Navy destroyer “executed maneuvers in an unsafe manner in the vicinity of Chung-Hoon,” he said, adding that the Chinese ship “reached Chung-Hoon on her port side and crossed her bow at 150 yards (140 meters). ).”

“Chung-Hoon stayed on course and slowed to 10 knots to avoid a collision.”

The Indo-Pacific Command said China’s actions violated the maritime ‘Rules of the Road’ for safe passage in international waters “where planes and ships of all nations may fly, sail and operate anywhere the law allows.” international”.

from China Ministry of National Defense claimed the Chinese ship handled the situation “legally and professionally,” but analysts said they found the event “disturbing” and “probably the worst reported close maritime encounter in the South China Sea since October 2018,” when a Chinese war approached the USS Decatur. in just 45 yards (41 meters).

“China is getting reckless in trying to enforce sovereignty in the Taiwan Strait,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“Beijing is just trying to force everyone to accept the idea that the Taiwan Straits are somehow China’s de facto territorial waters,” the military analyst told RFA.

The Canadian Navy’s HMCS Montreal conducted a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait with the US Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon on June 3, 2023. Credit: Canadian Armed Forces

Minister Li Shangfu told the audience at the Shangri-La Dialogue that US ships are in the region “by provocation.”

“What is key now is that we must avoid attempts to use the freedom of navigation… as a pretext to exert navigation hegemony,” he said.

Taiwanese military analysts said Saturday’s transit was a routine operation, but the Chinese navy’s reaction indicated a more resolute stance.

“As President Xi Jinping had indicated, senior officials and military leaders should take a tough stance in the face of challenges instead of showing soft behavior that can be seen as weak,” said Shen Ming-shih, acting deputy executive director of the Taiwan Institute of National Affairs. Research in Defense and Security.

“That is what the Chinese Defense Minister demonstrated in his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue,” Shen said.

Military expert Richard Bitzinger said the reason behind this approach may be that “the Chinese are concerned that they have a narrow, closed window to push themselves in before the economy stagnates and demographics catch up with them.”

Using risks as weapons

The Chinese Defense Minister in his speech criticized the Cold War mentality of the United States, accused Washington of “expanding military bases, strengthening the military presence and intensifying the arms race in the region”, actions that reflect his “desire to create enemies, stoke the confrontation”. , fan the fire and fish in troubled waters.”

Li also accused the United States of “deliberately interfering in the internal affairs of others,” referring to the Taiwan issue, which he said was “the center of China’s fundamental interests.”

The United States and China should seek common ground to “grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation,” he said.

“International affairs must be handled through confrontation,” said the minister, who insisted that China is always “seeking consensus, promoting reconciliation and negotiations.”

Speech by Li Shangfu.jpg
Chinese Defense Minister General Li Shangfu delivers his speech on the final day of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 4, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

A day earlier, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he was “deeply concerned” that Beijing has been unwilling to engage with Washington and has refused to hold direct bilateral talks.

“The Chinese minister’s speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue and the dangerous action of its warships in the Taiwan Strait are part of the strategy that I would call ‘riskfare’, which plays on the concerns of the US and other countries because of the risks,” said Alexandre Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii.

“The United States emphasizes communication, but China emphasizes risk and is using risk as a weapon in its fight with the United States,” he said. “Washington shows that it is concerned about the risks in its competition with Beijing. Beijing sees this and weaponizes this concern of the United States.”

The US willingness to reopen communications with China is genuine and some analysts believe that despite the absence of direct contacts between the US and Chinese delegations in Singapore, there is hope for closer interactions.

Baohui Zhang, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, told RFA that the problem of “communication” in US-China relations has been somewhat exaggerated.

“The truth is that the two sides communicate with each other,” Zhang said, noting that Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns reportedly paid a secret visit to China last month.

Jake Sullivan, the top US national security official, also met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in May. The trade ministers of the two countries have also met.

“My own opinion is that both sides appreciate the importance of holding dialogues to avoid misunderstandings and inadvertent crisis situations,” the analyst said.

“None of the parties want war and they still have enough dialogue with each other,” he said.

The US State Department announced Saturday that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will travel to China on Sunday.

“In Beijing, Under Secretary Kritenbrink, along with National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran will discuss key issues in the bilateral relationship,” he said.

The 20th Shangri-La Dialogue, the region’s main security forum organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), concludes on Sunday.

Edited by Mike Firn.

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