China will “fight to the very end” to stop Taiwanese independence, the country’s defense minister vowed Sunday, stoking already soaring tensions with the United States over the island.
It was the latest salvo in a growing war of words between the superpowers over the self-ruled, democratic island, which Beijing views as part of its territory awaiting reunification.
Frequent Chinese aerial incursions near Taiwan have raised the diplomatic temperature, and on Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin accused Beijing of “destabilizing” military activity in a speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit.
In a fiery address at the same event, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe hit back, saying Beijing had “no choice” but to fight if attempts were made to separate Taiwan from China.
“We will fight at all cost, and we will fight to the very end,” he said. “No one should ever underestimate the resolve and ability of the Chinese armed forces to safeguard their territorial integrity.
“Those who pursue Taiwanese independence in an attempt to split China will definitely come to no good end,” he added.
Wei urged Washington to “stop smearing and containing China… stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop harming China’s interests,” he said.
But he also struck a more conciliatory tone at points, calling for a “stable” China-U.S. relationship, which he said was “vital for global peace”.
Tensions over Taiwan have escalated in particular due to increasing Chinese military aircraft incursions into the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).