Escalating tensions between China and US after near collision of warships.
Amidst rising tensions between China and the US due to a near collision of warships, China’s defense minister, Li Shangfu, accused the United States and its allies of actively destabilizing the Indo-Pacific region. He made these bold allegations during a combative speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.
Li Shangfu accused the US of engaging in bloc confrontation and asserting dominance in the region for their self-interest. He emphasized that such severe confrontation between the US and China would have disastrous implications.
This statement followed US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressing concerns about the potential devastation from a war over Taiwan. Austin stressed its far-reaching consequences, affecting the global economy.
Coincidentally, just before Li’s speech, the US accused a Chinese warship of cutting in front of an American vessel during a joint exercise with the Canadian navy in the Taiwan Strait. This forced the American vessel to slow down to avoid a collision.
Li Shangfu criticized the US naval presence in the Taiwan Strait as provocative and a catalyst for chaos. He firmly asserted that foreign powers should avoid sending military assets near China’s borders to prevent confrontation.
The incident in the Taiwan Strait involved a Chinese destroyer cutting across the bow of the USS Chung-Hoon, with the Chinese ship coming within 150 yards of the American vessel. The US Indo-Pacific Command deemed the Chinese ship’s actions unsafe and a violation of maritime rules.
Video footage captured by Canada’s Global News crew aboard the HMCS Montreal documented the incident. Afterward, a spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command defended China’s handling of the situation and accused relevant countries of deliberately stirring trouble and undermining regional peace.
This is the second recent incident of aggressive Chinese maneuvers near US military personnel. In another episode, a Chinese fighter jet executed an unnecessary aggressive maneuver during an intercept of a US spy plane over the South China Sea.
Austin’s Call for Control
US Defense Secretary Austin called on Beijing to control its forces’ behavior after these incidents. He deemed the encounter between the US and Chinese destroyers extremely dangerous, warning of potential accidents escalating.
Taiwan also asserted that Beijing, not Washington, was the provocateur in the strait. Taipei’s Defense Ministry called on the Chinese Communist Party to respect freedom of navigation and avoid provocative behavior, highlighting the need for regional peace and stability.
These exchanges between the Chinese and US defense chiefs occur amidst heightened bilateral tension. China rejected an offer from Austin to meet at the Singapore summit, citing US sanctions on Chinese officials and companies as the reason.
Austin and Li exchanged smiles at a banquet; however, substantive talks are vital, not mere cordial gestures. It is unlikely they’ll meet this year, indicating fractured relations.
Austin stressed the unfortunate nature of China’s rejection, warning of potential incidents escalating. He criticized China’s risky intercepts of US and allied aircraft in international airspace.
He assured that the US would stand by its allies and partners in the face of coercion and bullying tactics. The intensifying tensions in the Indo-Pacific underscore the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to prevent escalation.