China fires again at US claims of aggression because it admits to growing new weapons


China’s defence minister has strongly pushed again towards US accusations of aggression as he sought to current Beijing as a accountable energy and western international locations as outsiders undermining stability in Asia.

China aimed to be “a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, a protector of the international order and a provider of public goods”, General Wei Fenghe advised the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue safety convention in Singapore on Sunday, utilizing a keynote phrase coined by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Wei’s remarks got here as defence and overseas coverage officers and analysts on the discussion board confronted China over its threats towards Taiwan, aggressive interceptions of western international locations’ navy plane within the South China Sea and ambitions to construct footholds for its increasing armed forces.

Regarding Taiwan, Wei’s message was rigid however no more belligerent than traditional. He claimed that the nation was “China’s Taiwan” and reiterated that Beijing perceived annexation of the island as a historic mission that “absolutely must be achieved” and for which its navy could be able to combat.

But Wei mentioned peaceable unification remained “the biggest hope of the Chinese people, and we continue to hold the greatest sincerity and are willing to make the biggest effort” to realize it.

“Wei laid out a fairly compressive position that I viewed as firm, but didn’t break any new ground. He repeated the statement [China’s president] Xi [Jinping] made to [Joe] Biden last November that China will do its utmost to pursue peaceful reunification,” mentioned Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program on the German Marshall Fund.

The comparatively calm stance got here as Beijing tried to keep away from an additional escalation in tensions with the US over Taiwan. On Friday, China praised a gathering between Wei and US defence secretary Lloyd Austin that was dominated by discussions over Taiwan as “frank, positive and constructive”.

The following day, Austin criticised Beijing in an deal with to the summit over “a steady increase in provocative and destabilising military activity near Taiwan”, and warned that the US would keep “our own capacity to resist any use of force” towards the nation.

However, observers mentioned China’s delicate messaging belied a stance that remained hardline in substance. One US official mentioned People’s Liberation Army officers had advised their US counterparts in current months that the Taiwan Strait was not worldwide waters.

“That sounds like a new position, and has operational implications,” Glaser mentioned.

While Beijing has prior to now principally complained about US help for Taiwan, Wei additionally objected that “other countries” had been interfering in China’s affairs over the island.

“He put out a veiled statement acknowledging they are watching what other countries are doing in support of Taiwan,” mentioned Meia Nouwens, an knowledgeable on the Chinese navy at IISS, the think-tank and organiser of the convention.

Wei additionally defended the PLA’s fast modernisation and growth.

He mentioned it was pure that China was growing new weapons when requested by the Financial Times a couple of extremely superior Chinese hypersonic weapon take a look at in July 2021 that shocked the Pentagon.

“Many countries are testing weapons. There is no surprise that China is doing so,” Wei mentioned. “These weapons are for protecting the national interest of China . . . It is natural for us to have some new weapons.”

The FT reported final 12 months that the PLA had examined a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon that flew all over the world and fired a missile because it flew over the South China Sea.

The Chinese overseas ministry beforehand denied the FT report, saying China had examined an area airplane. Wei’s feedback marked the closest Beijing has come to confirming the hypersonic weapons take a look at.

“Gen Wei has acknowledged that the test last year was a weapons demonstration, contradicting earlier alibis from the foreign ministry,” mentioned Ankit Panda, a nuclear knowledgeable on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The subtext to his comments is that we should expect more such tests, perhaps, as China continues to modernise.”

“We still don’t understand whether China intends to field such a weapon, however,” he added.

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