Beijing sounds warning against foreign interference at annual security forum

China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe delivers a speech at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, China, on Oct 21, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe sounded a thinly veiled warning against the United States at a security conference in Beijing, saying that interfering in the internal affairs of others and inciting colour revolutions have led to wars and turbulence in various regions in the world.

Such "reckless interference" would not foster harmonious relations, said General Wei on Monday (Oct 21) in his speech to open the conference. Beijing has blamed foreign countries, including the US, for inciting the unrest that has convulsed Hong Kong for five months.

It has also called the protests a colour revolution, referring to the pro-democracy uprisings that broke out in the former states of the Soviet Union in the noughties.

"Interference in the affairs of other regions, and the internal affairs of others, inciting colour revolutions, and attempts to overthrow the lawful government of other countries are the true causes of wars and turbulence in some regions," said Gen Wei.

Speaking at the Xiangshan Forum, Gen Wei also took aim at the efforts of countries to isolate themselves or pursue security strategies that seek to exclude others.

The annual forum is positioned by Beijing as a counterweight to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which it sees as a US-led summit.

"In the age of economic globalisation, no country can afford to retreat to self-isolation. Bending international rules as one sees fit can only undermine the international order," said Gen Wei.

Under President Donald Trump, the US has pursued a protectionist "America First" policy that has seen it impose tariffs on allies like the European Union, and also plunged it into a trade war with China.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Chad Sbragia, who was also at the forum, said on the sidelines that Washington was not seeking to "decouple" from Beijing, but was trying to "rebalance and right relationships to ensure that we have equity", Reuters reported.

Gen Wei's comments on the issue come as both Washington and Beijing work towards a partial trade agreement, after negotiators met earlier this month in Washington.

Beijing has said that officials are working on the text of an agreement - expected to be inked by Mr Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month in Chile.

"We are ready to address each other's concerns through dialogue and consultation on the basis of equality and mutual respect. This will prevent trade conflict from escalating and spreading, and is in the interests of both countries, and the world," said Gen Wei.

During his 26-minute speech, the Chinese defence chief also said China was committed to the path of peaceful development and would not seek hegemony.

But his tone turned forceful on the topic of Taiwan, saying that the "Taiwan question" was China's greatest national interest and that no force could prevent the country's "reunification".

"Resolving the Taiwan question so as to realise China's full reunification is the irresistible trend of the times, China's greatest national interest, the righteous path to follow and the longing of all Chinese people," he said, pointing out that China was the only major power that has not yet been "reunified".

The three-day forum is being attended by representatives from 68 countries, including about 30 defence chiefs. Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who is on a five-day visit to China, is among the attendees, and will speak at the forum on Tuesday (Oct 22) before it closes.

Other defence chiefs, including Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, also took potshots at the US when they took to the podium at the China-led summit.

Mr Shoigu said Washington had pulled out of an intermediate-range missile pact earlier this year, in order that it might contain Russia and China.

Washington has said that it intends to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Asia, which would create tension in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, said Mr Shoigu.

"Such a development will create the risks for conflicts and countries will be held hostage if they allow the US to deploy missiles in their territory," he said.

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