US, China Exchange Warnings on Taiwan

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(Newser)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stressed American support for Taiwan on Saturday, suggesting at Asia’s premier defense forum that recent Chinese military activity around the self-governing island threatens to change the status quo. Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin noted a “steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan,” including almost daily military flights near the island by the People’s Republic of China, the AP reports. “Our policy hasn’t changed, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be true for the PRC,” he said.

Austin said the US remains committed to the “one-China policy,” which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory and has not ruled out using military force to take it. China has stepped up its military provocations against democratic Taiwan in recent years. “The PRC’s moves threaten to undermine security, and stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Austin said. He drew a parallel with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that the “indefensible assault on a peaceful neighbor has galvanized the world and … has reminded us all of the dangers of undercutting an international order rooted in rules and respect.”

Austin met Friday with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the conference, a senior American defense official said. If Taiwan were split from China, Wei told him, the Chinese military would have to “fight at any cost,” per the BBC. Austin reportedly made clear that while the US does not support Taiwanese independence, it has major concerns about China’s recent behavior. Wei, meanwhile, complained to Austin about new US arms sales to Taiwan announced this week, saying the deal “seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests,” a Chinese media report said.

(Read more Taiwan-China relations stories.)

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