A day after it was recently published with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Reuters on Saturday broadcast excerpts from an interview with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu on regional and international files, most notably the relationship with Washington, the Taiwan issue, the arms race and the war in Ukraine.
Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said Beijing was seeking as broad common ground as possible among the international community on Ukraine.
Li stressed that his country takes a neutral and objective stance towards Ukraine.
China's defense minister warned against military blocs, saying they only contribute to destabilizing the region. "Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and domination," he said.
At the same time, he assured me of his commitment to supporting peace in addressing international crises.
An unbearable disaster
On the arms race, China's defense minister said some countries are expanding their military bases and increasing the pace of the arms race in the region.
He added that the Cold War mentality is now being renewed and significantly increases the security risks.
Li said the "unprecedented security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region" should not be ignored.
On the possibility of conflict between China and the United States, Li said his country seeks dialogue, not confrontation, but noted that it is normal for differences to arise between countries.
"The confrontation between China and the United States would be an intolerable disaster for the world," he said. At the same time, the Chinese minister noted that Beijing is open to communicating with the US military.
On the Taiwan file, the Chinese defense minister stressed that "all attempts at foreign interference in Taiwan will end in failure."
On Friday, Reuters published an interview with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in which he said that China was not ready to participate in better mechanisms for managing crises at the military level.
The U.S. defense secretary stressed that talks with Beijing were necessary to reduce the possibility of conflict.
"We are committed to maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and we oppose any unilateral changes," he said. "The conflict over Taiwan is not imminent or inevitable, and the current deterrence is strong."
He said Washington was not seeking a new Cold War and "competition should not turn into conflict."
Maintaining open channels of communication with China is essential, he said, "especially among military leaders."
Washington in 2018 imposed sanctions on Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu for buying Russian weapons, but the Pentagon said that this did not prevent Austin from conducting official business with him.
But U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shook hands on Friday with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at the opening of the Asian Shangri-La Security and Defence Forum in Singapore.
Pentagon spokesman Gen. Patrick Ryder said the handshake between the two ministers took place without any substantive exchange.