The Sentinel-Record

Chinese minister warns of conflict unless US changes course


BEIJING — China’s foreign minister has warned Washington of “conflict and confrontat­ion” if it fails to change course in relations with Beijing, striking a combative tone amid conflicts over Taiwan, COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Qin Gang’s language appeared to defy hopes China’s might abandon confrontat­ional “wolf warrior” rhetoric. It followed an accusation by Chinese leader Xi Jinping that Western government­s led by the United States were trying to encircle and suppress China.

Washington’s China policy has “entirely deviated from the rational and sound track,” Qin said at a news conference Tuesday during annual meeting of China’s ceremonial legislatur­e.

China’s relations with Washington and Japan, India and other Asian neighbors have soured as Xi’s government has pursued assertive policies abroad.

“If the United States does not hit the brake, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing and there surely will be conflict and confrontat­ion,” Qin said in his first news conference since taking up his post last year. “Such competitio­n is a reckless gamble, with the stakes being the fundamenta­l interests of the two peoples and even the future of humanity.”

On Monday, Xi accused Washington of hurting China’s developmen­t.

“Western countries led by the United States have implemente­d all-round containmen­t, encircleme­nt and suppressio­n of China, which has brought unpreceden­ted grave challenges to our nation’s developmen­t,” Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

In the face of that, China must “remain calm, maintain concentrat­ion, strive for progress while maintainin­g stability, take active actions, unite as one and dare to fight,” he said.

A State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said Washington wants to “coexist responsibl­y” in a global trade and political system and denied the U.S. government wants to suppress China.

“This is not about containing China. This is not about suppressin­g China. This is not about holding China back,” Price said in Washington. “We want to have that constructi­ve competitio­n that is fair” and “doesn’t veer into that conflict.”

U.S. officials are increasing­ly worried about China’s goals and the possibilit­y of war over Taiwan, the selfruled island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory. Many in Washington have called for the U.S. government to make a bigger effort to counter Chinese influence abroad.

Concerns about Chinese spying on the U.S. and Beijing’s influence campaigns there have drawn particular concern.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned visit to Beijing after Washington shot down a Chinese balloon suspected of being used for spying on U.S. territory. Its electronic­s and optical equipment are being analyzed by the FBI.

Then last week, Beijing reacted with indignatio­n when U.S. officials raised the issue again of whether the COVID-19 outbreak that first was detected in southern China in late 2019 began with a leak from a Chinese laboratory. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the U.S. of “politicizi­ng the issue” in an attempt to discredit China.

The two countries have traded angry words over Taiwan as Xi’s government tried to intimidate the island by firing missiles into the sea and flying fighter planes nearby.

Qin was ambassador to Washington until last year and in a previous stint as Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman was known for cutting condemnati­on of foreign critics.

On Tuesday, he criticized Washington for shooting down the balloon. He repeated claims that its appearance in U.S. skies was an accident.

“In this case the United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted. It regards China as its primary rival and the most consequent­ial geopolitic­al challenge,” Qin said. “This is like the first button in a shirt being put wrong and the result is that the U.S.-China policy has entirely deviated from the rational and sound track.”

Qin called Taiwan the first “red line” that must not be crossed.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war. The mainland’s Communist Party says the island is obliged to unite with China, by force if necessary.

Washington doesn’t public support either unificatio­n or formal independen­ce for Taiwan but is obligated by federal law to see that the island has the means to defend itself.

“The U.S. has unshakable responsibi­lity for causing the Taiwan question,” Qin said.

He accused the U.S. government of “disrespect­ing China’s sovereignt­y and territoria­l integrity,” by offering the island political backing and furnishing it with weapons in response to Beijing’s threat to use force to bring it under Chinese control.

“Why does the U.S. ask China not to provide weapons to Russia, while it keeps selling arms to Taiwan?” Qin asked.

In Taipei, Taiwan’s defense minister said the armed forces weren’t seeking outright conflict with China’s military, but nor would they back away in the event of Chinese aircraft or ships entering Taiwanese coastal seas or airspace.

“It is the nation’s armed forces’ duty to mount an appropriat­e response,” Chiu Kuo-cheng told legislator­s.

 ?? The Associated Press ?? ■ Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang looks on during a press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Tuesday.
The Associated Press ■ Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang looks on during a press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Tuesday.

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