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SINGAPORE: China will “fight to the very end” to stop Taiwanese independence, the country’s defence minister vowed Sunday. On Saturday US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin accused Beijing of “destabilising” military activity, in a speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit.

Defence Minister Wei Fenghe hit back in a fiery address at the same event, saying Beijing had “no choice” but to fight if attempts are made to separate Taiwan from China.

“We will fight at all cost, and we will fight to the very end,” he told the summit, which brings together defence ministers from Asia and around the world.

“No one should ever underestimate the resolve and ability of the Chinese armed forces to safeguard its territorial integrity.”

“Those who pursue Taiwanese independence in an attempt to split China will definitely come to no good end,” he added. Wei urged Washington to “stop smearing and containing China... stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop harming China’s interests”.

Beijing tells US: China will ‘not hesitate to start war’ over Taiwan

But he also struck a more conciliatory tone at points, calling for a “stable” China-US relationship, which he said was “vital for global peace”. During his address, Austin stressed the importance of “fully open lines of communication with China’s defence leaders” in avoiding miscalculations.

The pair held their first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the summit in Singapore on Friday, during which they also clashed over Taiwan.

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