On Sunday, China's defense minister accused the US of attempting to 'hijack' the backing of Asia-Pacific countries in order to turn them against Beijing, claiming Washington is pursuing its own goals 'under the pretext of multilateralism.'
Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe slammed US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, dismissing his "smearing accusation" at the Shangri-La Dialogue the day before that China was generating instability with its claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan and increased military operations in the region.
Austin had emphasized the importance of multilateral alliances with Indo-Pacific nations, which Wei interpreted as an attempt to corner China.
"Under the pretext of multilateralism, no country should push its will on others or coerce others," he stated. "In the name of a free and open Indo-Pacific, the strategy is an attempt to create an exclusive small group to hijack countries in our region and target one specific country — it is a strategy to provoke war and confrontation to restrict and encircle others."
China has been rapidly modernizing its military and attempting to expand its influence and ambitions in the region, most recently signing a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, which many fear could lead to a Chinese naval base in the Pacific, and breaking ground this week on a naval port expansion project in Cambodia, which could give Beijing a foothold in the Gulf of Thailand.
Last year, US authorities accused China of testing a hypersonic missile, a weapon that is more difficult to resist with missile defense systems, but China said it was just a "regular spacecraft test."
"As for hypersonic weapons, many countries are developing weapons, and I think it's no surprise that China is doing so," Wei said in response to a question about the test on Sunday, coming the closest to admitting it was a hypersonic missile so far.
He went on to say, "China will develop its military." "I believe it is normal."
With its claims to Taiwan and aspirations to dominate the crucial South China Sea, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated last month that China posed the "most severe long-term risk to the world order" for the US.
The United States and its allies have retaliated with so-called freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, which have occasionally been met with resistance from China's military.
With the patrols, Wei accused the US of "interfering in our region's affairs" and "flexing its muscles by sending warships and bombers on a spree in the South China Sea."
Wei said it was up to the countries in the region to find their own solutions after China clashed with the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, over maritime rights.
He stated, "China asks for the South China Sea to be transformed into a sea of peace, friendship, and collaboration." "This is a shared desire and obligation of the region's countries."
Taiwan and China divided during a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own and hasn't ruled out using military action to reclaim it, despite insisting that it is a domestic political problem.
Washington has a "one-China" policy, in which it recognizes Beijing but enables Taipei to have informal connections and defense links. It supplies Taiwan with armaments and takes a "strategic ambiguity" approach to how far it is willing to go to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion. It does not, however, promote Taiwanese independence.
Last month, President Joe Biden raised eyebrows and enraged China by stating the US would engage militarily if Taiwan was invaded, though the White House later clarified that the remarks did not reflect a policy shift.
Austin claimed on Saturday that China is threatening to change Taiwan's status quo by increasing "provocative and destabilizing military activity" near the island.
Wei retaliated on Sunday, claiming the US was breaking its "one-China" policy by "using the Taiwan card against China.
He stated that China's "highest aim" is "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan, but added that Beijing was willing to go to whatever length to achieve its objectives.
"China will undoubtedly achieve reunification," he predicted. "The Chinese nation's reunification is a tremendous cause, and it is a historical trend that no one or force can halt."
He went on to say that China would "decisively smash any attempt at Taiwan independence."
"We will not be afraid to fight, we will fight at any costs, and we will fight till the end," he declared.