Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu has said that Beijing seeks dialogue over confrontation with the United States, warning that any conflict between the two nations would bring “unbearable disaster for the world”.
Speaking at Asia’s top security summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue, on Sunday, Li said the world was big enough for China and the US to grow together.
“China and the US have different systems and are different in many other ways,” he said in a speech that marked his first significant international address since he was named China’s Minister of National Defense in March.
“However, this should not keep the two sides from seeking common ground and common interests to grow bilateral ties and deepen cooperation,” he said.
“It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world.”
Ties between Washington and Beijing are badly strained over a range of issues, including democratically ruled Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and US President Joe Biden’s restrictions on semiconductor chip exports.
In their latest row, China’s military criticised the US and Canada for “deliberately provoking risk” after the countries’ navies staged a rare joint sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Saturday.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin rebuked China in a speech at the security meeting in Singapore on Saturday for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over their differences.
Li, who the US sanctioned in 2018 over weapons purchases from Russia, shook hands with Austin at a dinner on Friday but the two have not had a deeper discussion, despite Washington’s repeated demands for more military exchanges.
“I am deeply concerned that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries,” Austin told the meeting in Singapore.
“The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.”
Austin added the US was “deeply committed” to preserving the status quo in Taiwan and opposes unilateral changes from either side.
“Conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable. Deterrence is strong today and it’s our job to keep it that way,” Austin said.
“To be clear, we do not seek conflict or confrontation,” he said. “But we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion.”
Li – dressed in the uniform of a general in China’s People’s Liberation Army – was more restrained in his speech, although he took thinly veiled digs at the US, accusing “some countries” of intensifying an arms race and wilfully interfering in the internal affairs of others.
He warned against the establishment of “NATO-like” military alliances in the Asia Pacific saying they would only plunge the region into a “whirlpool of disputes and conflicts”.
“A Cold War mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks,” he said. “Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony.”
Li appeared to be referring to Washington’s shoring up alliances and partnerships in the region, including its AUKUS alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom.
The US is also a member of the Quad group, which includes Australia, India and Japan.
The post China’s Li says clash with US would be ‘unbearable disaster’ appeared first on Al Jazeera.