China warned the US that it won’t hesitate to start a war over Taiwan as it vowed to “crush” the breakaway island.
Fears have been looming that Beijing may be emboldened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and could seize the opportunity to strike Taiwan.
US President Joe Biden has vowed to defend the island which has long sought full independence from the Communist Party state.
And talks between Beijing and Washington once again soured as Chinese general Wei Fenghe issued a chilling warning to the US.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was meeting with Chinese defence minister Wei on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.
“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost,” Wei told Austin, according to a spokesman for China.
He vowed the Communist giant would “smash to smithereens any ‘Taiwan independence’ plot and resolutely uphold the unification of the motherland”.
Wei “stressed that Taiwan is China’s Taiwan… Using Taiwan to contain China will never prevail”, according to defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian.
Washington however gave a more measured take on the meeting, saying Austin “reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait.
He urged China to “refrain from further destabilising actions toward Taiwan”, according to the US Department of Defense.
Taiwan insists it is a independent nation after splitting from mainland China in 1949.
However, Beijing has always aggressively insisted that Taiwan still belongs to them by right – and have pledged to reclaim the island by 2050.
Chinese defence ministry officials once again reiterated that stance today, pledging to “crush any attempt of Taiwan independence, safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Beijing often flies warplanes and sails warships close to the island – with military activity increasing over the last two years.
“[We have] major concerns about increasing PLA behaviour, particularly unsafe, aggressive, unprofessional behaviour and is concerned that the PLA may be attempting to change the status quo through its operational behaviour, ” a US official said.
Biden last month appeared to break with decades of US policy when he suggested Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if it is acted by China.
China responded to his comments by warning the US to not “go down the wrong path” and said they would “pay an unbearable price”.
And meanwhile, Taiwan’s foreign ministry thanked the US for the show of support and denounced China’s “absurd” claims of sovereignty.
“Taiwan has never been under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government, and the people of Taiwan will not succumb to threats of force from the Chinese government,” said ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou.
Phil Davidson, a retired admiral who commanded US forces in the Indo-Pacific until last year, warned the coming years are “decade of concern” for Taiwan.
He told The Financial Times: “I make that assessment because of the staggering improvements in Chinese military capabilities and capacities, the political timeline for Xi Jinping and the long-range economic challenges in China’s future.”
However, despite the Chinese bluster it has been warned that Beijing could faces it own “Vietnam War” if it attempts to invade Taiwan.
On paper China’s military dwarfs that of Taiwan – but they face killzone beaches, hostile terrain and a 500,000 strong guerrilla army could inflict a Vietnam War-style humiliation on Beijing.
In order to successfully capture the island, China would have to ship an enormous number of troops, plus their supplies, across the 80 mile Taiwan Strait.
The operation would be the largest amphibious operation in human history, easily surpassing the scale of the D-Day landings.
But when they arrive on Taiwan, the Chinese will have to get past defences far stronger than those faced by the Allies in WWII and significant natural obstacles.
Taiwan has a rugged coastline with steep cliffs making only 13 beaches suitable for landing, which have been turned into killing zones.
Analysts have coined the term “Z-Day” to refer to a theoretical Chinese invasion of Taiwan.