Wei Fenghe, Lloyd Austin discuss bilateral, regional, global issues at Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit.
The Chinese and US defense chiefs met on Friday for their first face-to-face meeting in Singapore.
“I met with PRC (People’s Republic of China) Minister Wei (Fenghe) at the Shangri-La Dialogue. We discussed US-PRC defense relations, as well as global and regional security issues,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted after almost an hour-long meeting.
The duo met on the sidelines of the 19th edition of the prominent Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit that resumed on Friday after a two-year COVID-19 pandemic-induced hiatus.
The US readout of the meeting said Austin discussed global and regional security issues with Wei.
The US defense secretary “reiterated to General Wei that the United States remains committed to our longstanding one China policy, which is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three US-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances,” it added.
The China-US relations are guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, a 1979 US law regulated by what is known as the Three Communiques, under which Washington abides by the so-called “One China” policy, with Taiwan as part of mainland China.
The Taiwan Relations Act commits the US to supply Taipei with the resources it needs to defend against a potential attack, but it does not explicitly commit the US to militarily stepping in if Taiwan is invaded by China.
“The Secretary reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on the PRC to refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan,” the statement said.
Regarding Russia’s war on Ukraine, Wei told Austin that China “always upholds the principle of objectiveness and fairness concerning the Ukraine issue and is actively making efforts to promote peace and talks.”
“If anyone wants to make use of the Ukraine issue to harm China’s interests, China will surely take resolute countermeasures,” Wei added.
– China condemns arms sale to Taiwan
Top defense and security officials from 42 countries are coming together for the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit which will last until Sunday.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will deliver a keynote address tonight Singapore time.
Austin is due to speak at the event on Saturday, while Wei is among the speakers scheduled for Sunday.
According to Chinese daily Global Times, Wei told Austin: “Taiwan island is China’s and the ‘One China’ principle is the political basis of China-US ties.”
“China condemns the US’ latest arms sales to the island,” Wei said, referring to a $120 million arms deal by Washington with Taipei early this week.
Since the Joe Biden administration came to power in the US in January 2021, Austin and Wei have spoken just once – a 45-minute phone call this April that the Pentagon described simply as “good.”
The Singapore meeting, which took place at the request of Beijing, comes at a time when Washington is focusing more on the Asia-Pacific region, shoring up bilateral and multilateral support as it seeks to contain Beijing’s growing influence.
Journalists covering the high-stakes event said the top Chinese defense official called the meeting “candid.”
Taiwan is said to have dominated the discussions while the two sides also emphasized the “need to responsibly manage competition and maintain open lines of communication.”
The meeting between top Chinese and US defense officials come after the US president last month warned Washington may use military power if China attempted to use force to take over Taiwan, a self-ruled island home to over 24 million people.
– ‘Refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan’
China considers Taiwan as its “breakaway province” but Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949 with full diplomatic relations with 14 nations.
The US side said Austin “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the (Taiwan) Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on the PRC to refrain from further destabilizing actions toward Taiwan.”
However, Wei responded: “The Chinese military will not hesitate in crushing any attempt of ‘Taiwan independence’ to defend national unity.”
Taiwan Strait has seen intense air and naval activities as interactions between Washington and Taipei have increased since the former Donald Trump administration era.
While Biden has made four arms sales to Taiwan since he came to power last year, many sitting and former US lawmakers and officials have visited the island nation, angering Beijing which has flown dozens of its military planes across the Strait, while US continues to sail its warships south of mainland China on the pretext of “freedom of navigation.”