China Defends Buzzing American Warship 06/04 09:56
China Defends Buzzing American Warship 06/04 09:56
SINGAPORE (AP) -- China's defense minister defended sailing a warship across
the path of an American destroyer and Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan
Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world's top defense officials in
Singapore on Sunday that such so-called "freedom of navigation" patrols are a
provocation to China.
In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in
March, Gen. Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China doesn't have any
problems with "innocent passage" but that "we must prevent attempts that try to
use those freedom of navigation (patrols), that innocent passage, to exercise
hegemony of navigation."
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the same forum Saturday that
Washington would not "flinch in the face of bullying or coercion" from China
and would continue regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait
and the South China Sea to emphasize they are international waters, countering
Beijing's sweeping territorial claims.
That same day, as a U.S. guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate
were intercepted by a Chinese warship as they transited the strait between the
self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and
mainland China. The Chinese vessel overtook the American ship and then veered
across its bow at a distance of 150 yards (about 140 meters) in an "unsafe
manner," according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Additionally, the U.S. has said a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month
"performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver" while intercepting a U.S. Air
Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, flying directly in
front of the plane's nose.
Those and previous incidents have raised concerns of a possible accident
occurring that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time
when tensions are already high.
Li suggested the U.S. and its allies had created the danger, and should
instead should focus on taking "good care of your own territorial airspace and
"The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter
jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries'
territories," he said through an interpreter. "What's the point of going there?
In China we always say, 'Mind your own business.'"
In a wide-ranging speech, Li reiterated many of Beijing's well-known
positions, including its claim on Taiwan, calling it "the core of our core
He accused the U.S. and others of "meddling in China's internal affairs" by
providing Taiwan with defense support and training, and conducting high-level
"China stays committed to the path of peaceful development, but we will
never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, let alone
sacrifice the nation's core interests," he said.
"As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song go: 'When friends visit us, we
welcome them with fine wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them
In his speech the previous day, Austin broadly outlined the U.S. vision for
a "free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights."
In the pursuit of such, Austin said the U.S. was stepping up planning,
coordination and training with "friends from the East China Sea to the South
China Sea to the Indian Ocean" with shared goals "to deter aggression and to
deepen the rules and norms that promote prosperity and prevent conflict."
Li scoffed at the notion, saying "some country takes a selective approach to
rules and international laws."
"It likes forcing its own rules on others," he said. "Its so-called
'rules-based international order' never tells you what the rules are and who
made these rules."
By contrast, he said, "we practice multilateralism and pursue win-win
Li is under American sanctions that are part of a broad package of measures
against Russia -- but predate its invasion of Ukraine -- that were imposed in
2018 over Li's involvement in China's purchase of combat aircraft and
anti-aircraft missiles from Moscow.
The sanctions, which broadly prevent Li from doing business in the United
States, do not prevent him from holding official talks, American defense
officials have said.
Still, he refused Austin's invitation to talk on the sidelines of the
conference, though the two did shake hands before sitting down at opposite
sides of the same table together as the forum opened Friday.
Austin said that was not enough.
"A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive
engagement," Austin said.
The U.S. has noted that since 2021 -- well before Li became defense minister
-- China has declined or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from
the U.S. Defense Department to talk with senior leaders, as well as multiple
requests for standing dialogues and working-level engagements.
Li said that "China is open to communications between our two countries and
also between our two militaries," but without mentioning the sanctions, said
exchanges had to be "based on mutual respect."
"That is a very fundamental principle," he said. "If we do not even have
mutual respect, than our communications will not be productive."
He said that he recognized that any "severe conflict or confrontation
between China and the U.S. will be an unbearable disaster for the world," and
that the two countries need to find ways to improve relations, saying they were
"at a record low."
"History has proven time and again that both China and the United States
will benefit from cooperation and lose from confrontation," he said.
"China seeks to develop a new type of major-country relationship with the
United States. As for the U.S. side, it needs to act with sincerity, match its
words with deeds, and take concrete actions together with China to stabilize
the relations and prevent further deterioration," Li said.