China’s General Criticizes US Defense Secretary over Taiwan at Shangri-La Dialogue

Leaders from around the world gathered at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore to discuss security in the Asia-Pacific region. However, tensions between China and the United States were heightened following a fiery exchange between Chinese General Wei Fenghe and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin over Taiwan.

General Wei took aim at Austin, accusing him of interfering with Chinese sovereignty by supporting Taiwan. “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” Wei stated. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national reunification.”

In response, Austin warned that a “Taiwan war would be devastating” and criticized China for its actions in the South China Sea. “Beijing’s actions, economic coercion, and military intimidation are challenging the free and open international order that underpins prosperity and security for the Indo-Pacific,” Austin stated.

The tension between the two military leaders reflected the wider tensions in the region, with China’s snub of U.S. military leader Admiral John Aquilino highlighting the escalation risk.

Despite the tensions, there were some signs of diplomacy at the summit, with Austin and Chinese military leader Xu Qiliang shaking hands in a gesture of goodwill. However, the world leaders present at the summit were left wondering whether this was just a small glimmer of hope in what appears to be an increasingly complex and fraught security environment.