Chinese defence minister’s warning: ‘Playing with fire on Taiwan question…’

BEIJING: Days after Beijing condemned Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai for making stopovers in the United States calling him a “troublemaker”, China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu on Tuesday cautioned against “playing with fire” when it comes to Taiwan, Chinese Defence Ministry reported.

In an apparent attack at the US, Li cautioned any attempts to “use Taiwan to contain China,” and said it would “surely end in failure,” China’s defence Ministry said in a statement and Xinhua news Agency quoted.
Speaking at the Moscow Conference on International Security, Li Shangfu has said reunification of Taiwan with the mainland was “inevitable.”

“Li mentioned that the Taiwan question is China’s internal affair that brooks no external interference. “The reunification of China is an inevitable historical trend,” The Chinese Defence Ministry said in an official statement.
“Playing with fire on the Taiwan question and attempting to ‘contain China with Taiwan’ will undoubtedly end in failure,” The statement quoted Li as saying.
Li’s comments echoed previous statements by Chinese officials but the location of his speech was significant and symbolic given Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, as per CNN.
Meanwhile, Li’s comments on Taiwan come on the heels of a backlash from Beijing as Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai, a front-runner in the island’s upcoming presidential race, made planned stopovers in the United States during travel for an official visit to Paraguay.
China’s foreign ministry condemned the stopover on Sunday, calling Lai a “troublemaker through and through.”
In a speech to supporters at a lunch banquet in New York, Lai portrayed Taiwan’s long-term survival as something the international community should take an interest in.
“When Taiwan is safe, the world is safe, and when there is peace on the Taiwan Strait, there will be world peace,” front-runner in the island’s upcoming presidential race, Lai said, according to Taiwan’s presidential office.
“No matter how great the threat of authoritarianism is to Taiwan, we absolutely will not be scared nor cower, we will uphold the values of democracy and freedom.”
It said China firmly opposes any official interaction between the US and Taiwan and any “‘Taiwan independence’ separatists to the US.”
In a pre-recorded message to the same Moscow conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of adding “fuel to the fire” of global conflicts, including through its support of Ukraine.
China has used similar rhetoric in its own official comments about the conflict, despite maintaining that it remains a neutral party and a proponent of peace.
Li on Tuesday also told attendees that China’s military was “a firm force in maintaining world peace,” and that Chinese leader Xi Jinping aimed to stabilize global security in “a world of chaos.”
“We are willing to work with other militaries to strengthen mutual trust in military security strategies and practical cooperation in various specialized fields,” Li added, according to Xinhua.
Notably, China’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing democracy of Taiwan and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary. It has repeatedly castigated American interactions with the island, with which Washington does not have official diplomatic ties, including for the sale of US arms to Taipei, CNN reported.
On the other hand, the US maintains an unofficial relationship with Taipei after formally establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979, but is bound by law to provide the democratic island with the means to defend itself, CNN reported.
During a speech in New York, Lai declared Taiwan will “never back down” to threats from China.
“No matter how great the threat of authoritarianism is to Taiwan, we absolutely will not be scared nor cower, we will uphold the values of democracy and freedom,” he said.
China has in recent years ramped up its military intimidation of the island, including following meetings between Taiwanese leaders and US lawmakers.
Some analysts have suggested that China was watching Western reaction to Russian aggression in Ukraine with an eye to understanding possible responses to any potential, future moves against Taiwan, according to CNN.

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