The United States is responsible for rising tensions in the Pacific, and the US Indo-Pacific strategy to further divide the region is “doomed to fail”, a senior Chinese military official said on Sunday.
The scathing comments by Chinese Lt. Gen. Zhang Zhenzhong came just hours after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke at the Shangri-La high-level dialogue in Singapore and blasted the military pressure campaign. China’s growing grip on Taiwan, the island democracy that Beijing considers part of its sovereign territory and has sworn to capture it.
The normally reserved Mr Austin scathingly chastised China’s rapidly growing military footprint across the Pacific, particularly its recent military aircraft overflights near Taiwan.
“We have witnessed a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan,” Austin said. “And that includes PLA planes flying near Taiwan in record numbers in recent months – and almost daily.”
Mr. Austin pledged to defend American interests in the India-Pacific “without flinching”. He promised that the United States would help maintain “peace and stability” in the Pacific and continue to provide aid to the Taiwan Defense Forces.
But General Zhang defended his country’s diplomatic and military strategy in the Pacific and said the United States was wading into dangerous territory by playing the “Taiwan card” at every opportunity.
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“The Taiwan issue is the issue that could most easily lead China-US relations to conflict. Mishandling the Taiwan issue will have a destructive impact on bilateral relations. The People’s Liberation Army is always ready to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity at all costs,” said General Zhang, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department at the Central Military Commission of China. China.
“The US Indo-Pacific strategy is a strategy that runs counter to historical trends and the prevailing will of countries in the region. It only serves the United States’ own interests and is therefore doomed to fail,” General Zhang said, according to China Daily.
“The United States is the greatest source of instability in the international order, the behind-the-scenes manipulator of global unrest, and a dangerous threat to regional peace and stability,” he said.
In his remarks, Austin pointed to the United States’ adherence to the “One China” policy, a diplomatic acknowledgment of Beijing’s assertion that there is a Chinese government but allows informal relations with Taipei.
“We don’t support Taiwan independence,” Austin said. “And we strongly support the principle that cross-strait differences should be resolved by peaceful means.”
Nonetheless, he said the United States would continue to honor its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.
“That includes helping Taiwan maintain sufficient self-defense capacity,” he said. “And that means maintaining our own ability to resist any use of force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan.”
“Our policy has not changed,” he said. “But unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be true for the PRC.”