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Taiwan says China defense minister's statement at Asia defense summit 'absurd'

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin describes China as 'becoming more aggressive and coercive'

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U.S. and China defense chiefs meet on the sidelines of Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore on Friday. (Reuters photo)

U.S. and China defense chiefs meet on the sidelines of Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore on Friday. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following a first face-to-face meeting between the defense chiefs of the United States and China, Taiwan's foreign ministry issued a statement on Saturday (June 11) calling Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe's (魏鳳和) statement during the meeting as "absurd."

Wei had said Taiwan was part of China and would go to war if the nation declared its independence. Ministry spokesperson, Joanne Ou (歐江安), also thanked the U.S. government for its continued support of Taiwan's right to defend itself.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart met on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore on Friday (June 10) for nearly an hour. Both sides said they wanted to manage their relationship better, but there was no evidence of any breakthrough in settling long-running security disputes and security situations, including Taiwan's sovereignty, Reuters reported.

Austin said the next day that Beijing was becoming increasingly aggressive in the Asian region, including near Taiwan. He added the U.S. would do its part to prevent conflict.

Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesperson told Taiwan News that, during the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed the importance of peace in the Taiwan Strait and urged China not to further undermine stability across the strait.

Ou also contradicted Wei's claim that Taiwan is part of China and criticized his threats saying the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would fight at any cost and crush any attempt to make Taiwan independent, calling it "absurd."

She reiterated that Taiwan has never been part of China and will not succumb to threats of force, adding the democratic nation will continue to work with the U.S. and countries with shared values to jointly safeguard peace, security and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait and Indo-Pacific region.

On Friday at the same summit, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida once again underscored the importance of peace across the strait in a speech. Last month, Kishida made a similar statement during his visit to Europe.