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China warns against ‘NATO-like’ bloc in Asia-Pacific

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Defence Minister Li Shangfu says a Cold War mentality was resurgent in the Asia-Pacific region although his country seeks dialogue over confrontation.

China’s Defence Minister Li Shangfu has warned against establishing “NATO-like” military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, saying they would plunge the region into a “whirlpool” of conflict.

“In essence, attempts to push for NATO-like [alliances] in the Asia-Pacific is a way of kidnapping regional countries and exaggerating conflicts and confrontations, which will only plunge the Asia-Pacific into a whirlpool of disputes and conflicts,” Li told the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore on Sunday.

Li has said that a Cold War mentality was resurgent in the Asia-Pacific region although his country seeks dialogue over confrontation.

He took thinly veiled digs at the United States, accusing “some countries” of intensifying an arms race and willfully interfering in the internal affairs of others.

“A Cold War mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks,” he said. “Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony.”

Li said that conflict with the US would be an “unbearable disaster” but that his country seeks dialogue over confrontation.

He 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 Defence 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.”

US-China tensions

Ties between Washington and Beijing are strained over a range of issues, including Taiwan, the South China Sea and President Joe Biden’s restrictions on semiconductor chip exports.

The US has been expanding its activities around the Asia-Pacific to counter China, including regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin rebuked China in a speech at the security meeting on Saturday for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over many issues.

Li, sanctioned by the United States 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 repeated US demands for more military exchanges.


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