Taiwan ‘at core of core issues’ for Beijing, says Chinese defence minister

Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe told his American counterpart Lloyd Austin on Tuesday that Taiwan is "at the core" of China's core interest and a "red-line" the US should not cross.

"The resolution of Taiwan is a matter for the Chinese people, no external force has the right to interfere," Mr Wei said.

The meeting between the two defence chiefs, which lasted for nearly 90 minutes, took place on the sidelines of the gathering of Southeast Asian defence ministers in Cambodia.

It was the pair's first in-person meeting since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei in August, which caused a stir in China.

The Chinese defence minister said that the US must respect Beijing's core interests and he hopes that it could adopt a rational, practical policy towards China to get the tattered relations between the two countries back on track.

His statement on mending bilateral relations between the two countries comes a week after US president Joe Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping face-to-face for the first time in years during the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Beijing maintains that Taiwan is a part of its national territory, even though the island has been self-ruled since it split from the mainland in 1949 following a civil war. This year, China has beefed up its military activities around Taiwan, including flying a record number of warplanes into the island’s airspace.

During Tuesday's talks, Mr Austin assured his Chinese counterpart of president Biden's commitment to the "one China" policy, Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said.

He raised concerns about the “increasingly dangerous behaviour demonstrated by PLA (China's People's Liberation Army) aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region that increases the risk of an accident," according to the press secretary. In June, Australia accused China of intercepting one of its military surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea.

The US defence secretary “underscored his opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo” and called on China to refrain from destabilizing actions toward Taiwan”.

A senior US defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the defence chiefs had a “lengthy” discussion about Taiwan and also talked about restarting some of the mechanisms that had been cancelled after Ms Pelosi’s visit.

“There’s an expectation that there will be some restart of some of the mechanisms that have been frozen for the last six months,” the official said.