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China’s Dong Jun warns Taiwan separatist forces face ‘self-destruction’

China’s Defense Minister Dong Jun speaks during the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 2, 2024.

Nhac Nguyen | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — China’s defense minister, Adm. Dong Jun, vowed that anyone who aims to separate Taiwan from China will face “self-destruction.”

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the admiral called on “forces for Taiwan independence” to “abandon the illusion and return to the right track of reunification.”

“Anyone who dares to separate Taiwan from China will only end up in self-destruction,” he said.

In response to questions, Dong reiterated China’s position that Taiwan is part of China and said Beijing is committed to peaceful reunification.

Taiwan is a democratically self-governed island and recently inaugurated a new president on May 20.

Throughout his speech and Q&A, Dong repeatedly blamed separatist forces for eroding the “One China” principle, which states Beijing’s view that it has sovereignty over Taiwan. The admiral said newly elected Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te made a “blatant” statement about his ambition for Taiwanese independence in his inauguration speech.

He also accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party of trying to change the island’s constitution to “erase the Chinese identity,” preventing people-to-people exchanges between Taiwan and mainland China as well as increasing its military capability to push for independence.

For decades, Taiwan has bought U.S. military hardware, with recent purchases including advanced M1A2 Abrams tanks, modernized F-16 fighters and long-range artillery systems.

‘Outside forces’

The Chinese defense minister also took aim at unnamed “outside forces,” claiming they support Taiwan separatists.

“We know some big power keeps hollowing out the ‘One China’ principle, distorted facts and even misinterpret U.N. General Assembly resolutions,” Dong said.

What is the 'One China Policy'?

Although Dong had already dedicated a portion of his speech to addressing China’s concerns about Taiwan, he continued to expound on those issues in his first response during the Q&A. When reminded by the plenary’s chair, Bastian Giegerich from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, to address delegates’ queries on other issues, Dong asked to finish his answer on Taiwan, describing it as “the core of our core interest.”

He added, “facing the strong People’s Liberation Army, their efforts will be futile, and their efforts can only lead to accelerated demise. [This will] only undermine the interests of people in Taiwan. And that’s the last thing we want to see in China.”

South China Sea tensions

Dong also addressed other questions, including one that referenced Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s comment that the killing of a Filipino citizen in the South China Sea would be “very close” to an act of war.

While the defense minister alleged the Philippines illegally grounded its landing ship on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999, he said Beijing and Manila have been discussing and working on the issue peacefully.

Dong noted the two countries had reached several agreements recognized by current and previous Filipino administrations, such as allowing resupplies to the ship’s garrison. Manila deploys resupply missions to the shoal to a small garrison of troops living aboard an aging warship deliberately run aground in 1999 to protect Manila’s maritime claims.

“But recently, they start to not recognize [these agreements] at all. This is a unilateral reneging of their promise… I think this is blackmail and hijacking rules. We’re always talking about robust international order, [but] I think this is not even morally right,” he said.

In contrast, the Chinese defense chief characterized actions taken by China’s Coast Guard as “very restrained in accordance with our law.”

“Our policy is consistent for the past many decades. We’re committed to peaceful resolution of the disputes. But I also want to say, our tolerance for deliberate provocation will be limited.”

While delegates raised questions on other issues such as ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, Dong focused most of his answers on Taiwan and the South China Sea.

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