China’s defence minister warned Sunday against establishing NATO-like military alliances in the Asia-Pacific, saying they would plunge the region into a “whirlpool” of conflict.
Li Shangfu’s comments came a day after US and Chinese military vessels sailed close to each other in the flashpoint Taiwan Strait, an incident that provoked anger from both sides.
“Attempts to push for NATO-like (alliances) in the Asia-Pacific is a way of kidnapping regional countries and exaggerating conflicts and confrontations,” Li told a security conference in Singapore also attended by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Li warned that these alliances would “plunge the Asia-Pacific into a whirlpool of disputes and conflicts”. Li’s comments echoed long-held Chinese criticism of the United States’ efforts to shore up alliances in the region and counter China’s rise.
The United States is a member of AUKUS, which groups it with Australia and Britain. Washington is also a member of the QUAD group, which includes Australia, India and Japan.
“Today’s Asia-Pacific needs open and inclusive cooperation, not buddying up into small cliques,” Li said at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit.
“It cannot be denied that if a fierce conflict or confrontation occurs between China and the United States, it would bring unbearable pain for the world,” he said.
On Saturday, Austin called for top-level defence talks with Beijing to prevent miscalculations.
“The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict,” Austin said.
Also on Saturday, the United States deployed a destroyer from its 7th Fleet along with a Canadian naval vessel through the Taiwan Strait.
China responded by sending one of its naval ships close to the US destroyer, the USS Chung-Hoon, according to the Pentagon.
The strait is one of the world’s most tense potential military flashpoints.
Austin on Sunday described the incident as “extremely dangerous”, saying the Chinese vessel crossed “probably 150 feet (46 metres)” in front of the Chung-Hoon.
“I call upon the (Chinese) leadership to really do the right things to rein in that kind of conduct, because I think accidents can happen that could cause things to spiral out of control,” Austin told reporters in Singapore.—AFP