China’s defense chief said Sunday that differences should not hinder cooperation with the US as he emphasized the need for communication with Washington.
"China and US have different systems, but the differences don't hinder the two countries to seek common ground and deepen cooperation based on common interests," State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu told the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
China-US relations, said Li, "are vital for global stability, and the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation are the right way for China and the US to get along with each other," as quoted by Chinese state media.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said earlier at the same conference that Washington and its allies do not seek "conflict or confrontation" in the wider Asia-Pacific region but warned that they will not "flinch in the face of bullying or coercion."
Li, however, noted history has "repeatedly shown that cooperation between the two countries benefits both, while confrontation hurts all," warning that a fierce confrontation between China and the US "would be an unbearable pain for the world."
He urged Washington to behave like a "responsible major country and avoid provoking confrontation between camps for selfish reasons."
"China has been seeking to build a new type of major-country relationship with the US, but it requires the US side to show sincerity and take concrete actions to meet China halfway, so as to stop the decline in bilateral and military-to-military relations and promote the recovery of them," said Li.
"The world is broad enough to accommodate the common development of countries in the region, including China and the US," he said.
Reiterating China’s opposition to unilateral sanctions, Li called out interference in other countries' internal affairs.
On the South China Sea, the Chinese defense chief said some "outside the region” actors have practiced “navigation hegemony" on the pretext of "freedom of navigation" and have tried “to stir up trouble" in the disputed South China Sea "for profit."
Tens of thousands of ships from all over the world pass through the South China Sea every year, carrying $3.5 trillion of global cargo, and there has not been word of any ship being blocked or their safety threatened, he said.
"China is willing to work with all parties to strengthen the awareness of the Asia-Pacific community of shared future, promote the healthy development of regional security cooperation and strive to build an open, inclusive, transparent and equal regional security cooperation architecture," said the defense chief.
On Taiwan, he said the island nation belongs to China.
"How to solve the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people's own business, and no external forces are allowed to intervene," he said.
"If someone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate in the slightest, and will not be afraid of any opponent. No matter what the price is, the Chinese military will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Li.
China considers Taiwan its "breakaway province" while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949.
Slamming "external forces" for "controlling China using" Taiwan, Li said they were the "biggest troublemakers in changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait."
Li's comments on the Taiwan Strait came after China’s People's Liberation Army confronted a joint patrol of warships from the US and Canada in the Taiwan Strait.
The 20th Shangri-La Dialogue, which began Friday, will conclude Sunday.
The three-day summit is being attended by top defense and security officials, including the US and China.
Austin and his Chinese counterpart shook hands at the opening reception.
But Beijing has already declined a Pentagon's request for a meeting between the two defense chiefs on the sidelines of the summit.