By: Pingdong Ark, Taiwan News, Contributing Writer
Asia’s largest defense conference, the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, took place at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel from May 31 to June 2. Acting United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said at the meeting that Washington would no longer tolerate China’s aggressive behavior in Asia. The U.S. would continue to support Taiwan and to conduct free navigation in the South China Sea.
Shanahan said that the biggest long-term threat to the key interests of each country in the South China Sea comes from those who want to disrupt and do not respect the international order. If the trend of such behavior continues, those manmade structures built in public places worldwide could become toll stations, and sovereignty would be reserved for major powers. There is no single country which can lead the Indo-Pacific, all countries must cooperate to build a prosperous future. In his address, Shanahan did not forget to warn China not to continue building new artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarize them thoroughly. He also described threats by China against countries in the region as a kind of “toolkit of coercion.”
Shanahan also said the U.S. and China did not find themselves in a situation of “confrontation.” He said that in the face of “China’s rapid rise,” countries around the world should not be afraid but welcome it. Competition did not amount to clashes.
In his speech afterward, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe criticized U.S. actions in support of Taiwan and its contested “freedom of navigation” actions in the South China Sea. Wei said that no action aimed at splitting up China would be successful, and each type of interference in the Taiwan issue was bound to fail. China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory, would fight until the end, Wei said. If China succeeds in bringing Taiwan into its territory, then not only would the Taiwan Strait turn into a Chinese inner sea, but a large part of the South China Sea would also become China’s maritime area.