NATO-like alliances in Asia-Pacific could spark conflict, China warns

NATO-like alliances in Asia-Pacific could spark conflict, China warns

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu also warned of the rise of a “cold war mentality” in the Asia-Pacific region. The Pentagon denounced this Sunday “increasingly risky and coercive” activities of the Chinese army in that area. With our correspondent in Beijing, Stéphane Lagarde.

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Little was said to the Chinese and US defense ministers who attended the Shangri-La security summit in Singapore on Saturday, as Beijing refused to let Li Shangfu hold an official meeting with Lloyd Austin. “The two men shook hands and had a brief exchange,” RFI correspondent Stéphane Lagarde tells us from Beijing.

The Chinese defense minister warned that the establishment of “NATO-like” military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region could unleash a “maelstrom” of conflicts. Minister Li Shangfu’s remarks come a day after Chinese and US military ships maneuvered dangerously close in the Taiwan Strait, an event that angered both powers.

The Chinese Defense Minister once again insisted on the main themes of Beijing’s rhetoric against the United States, says Lagarde. “Some countries want to impose their rules on others,” General Li said. “They practice double standards and only serve their own interests,” while interfering in the “internal affairs of other countries,” he denounced at the Conference of Defense and Security Asia-Pacific.

Added to these thinly veiled criticisms is the denunciation of an international order that, according to Beijing, is once again serving the interests of a handful of countries. A refrain echoed this week by Chinese academics such as Lei Xiaolu, associate professor at the Chinese Institute for Border and Ocean Studies (CIBOS) at Wuhan University and deputy director of the SCSPI, according to which the United States “does not respect the law international law”, in particular as regards the right of navigation.

“We see how some countries outside the region exercise hegemony over navigation in the name of navigation freedom (…) Every day, I see a lot of information about foreign ships and warplanes arriving in areas close to our territory. They are not here for an innocent step,” Li Shangfu declared.

The One China Principle

Li Shangfu reiterated Beijing’s stance on Taiwan, saying the island was “the core of China’s fundamental interests” and remained China’s internal matter, off-limits to foreign governments. “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan, and how to resolve the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese to decide,” the Chinese general said. Beijing’s one-China principle – that there is only one China and that Taiwan belongs to it – has become a “universally recognized basic rule governing international relations.”

Amid these tensions, there have been some signs of what appears to be an improvement in the dialogue between the two countries. On Saturday, Austin defended that the defense dialogue between the two powers is “essential” to reduce the risks of conflict. And CIA director William Burns went on a secret trip to China last month, a US official announced on Friday. In the coming days, the Undersecretary of State for Southeast Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, will also visit the Asian giant.

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