Jun 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Defense Secretary Austin condemns China's military activity near Taiwan

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaking in Singapore in June 2022.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks in Singapore on June 11. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reiterated the U.S.' support for Taiwan at a defense summit in Asia on Saturday, warning of a recent "steady increase" of Chinese military activity near the self-governing island country.

Why it matters: Austin's speech comes after China's defense minister Wei Fenghe told Austin on the sidelines of the summit that an independent Taiwan would leave the Chinese military with no choice but to "fight at any cost," according to the BBC.

  • A spokesperson quoted Wei as saying, "If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will have no choice but fight at any cost and crush any attempt of 'Taiwan independence' and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
  • He also condemned U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.

What they're saying: "We're determined to uphold the status quo that has served this region so well for so long," Austin said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday.

  • "So let me be clear: We remain firmly committed to our longstanding one-China policy — guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances," he said.
  • "We categorically oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side. We do not support Taiwan independence. And we stand firmly behind the principle that cross-strait differences must be resolved by peaceful means."
  • "We're seeing growing coercion from Beijing. We've witnessed a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan. We remain focused on maintaining peace, stability and the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. But China's moves threaten to undermine security and stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific."
  • "We seek a region free of aggression and bullying. And we seek a world that respects territorial integrity and political independence."

The big picture: Current U.S. policy acknowledges Beijing considers Taipei part of "one China," but opposes any attempts to change Taiwan's democratic status by military force.

  • However, President Biden last month angered China's government during his first trip to Japan by saying American troops would defend Taiwan if Chinese forces attacked the country.

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