SINGAPORE — US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday blasted China's "provocative, destabilizing" military activity near Taiwan, a day after his Chinese counterpart warned him that Beijing will "not hesitate to start a war" if the island declares independence.
"We're seeing growing coercion from Beijing. We've witnessed a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan," Austin told the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.
"That includes (Chinese military) aircraft flying near Taiwan in record numbers in recent months, and nearly on a daily basis," he said.
US-China tensions have soared over Taiwan in recent months. Beijing views the self-ruled, democratic island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.
In their first face-to-face talks Friday on the sidelines of the summit, Austin and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe clashed over the issue.
Wei warned Austin that "if anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost," according to Chinese officials.
© Agence France-Presse
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