The clash between the two superpowers (the United States and China) dwarfs everything surrounding the largest security summit in Asia-Pacific, the Shangri-La Dialogue, which is being held this weekend in Singapore. Defense ministers, senior military officials, diplomats, analysts and arms manufacturers fatten a list of 600 representatives from 49 countries who have rallied around the growing - and perennial - tension between Washington and Beijing.
The first major photo of the event was captured at the group dinner on Friday, with a handshake between US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, a veteran general sanctioned for precisely US for buying weapons from Russia.
An image with added value if one takes into account that Beijing had rejected an invitation from Washington for Austin and Li to meet on the sidelines of the summit. In addition, a few days earlier, the Pentagon released a video showing a Chinese fighter jet flying very close to a US spy plane over the disputed South China Sea, which the White House interpreted as a risky and dangerous provocation by the Peking.
"China has been carrying out an alarming number of risky interceptions of US and allied aircraft legally flying in international airspace," Austin released on Saturday during his speech at this forum, organized for two decades by the think tank International Institute of Strategic Studies.
"We do not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will not back down from intimidation or coercion," Austin continued, also taking a hint at China and its frequent threat to take Taiwan by force. "Russia's invasion of Ukraine taught people around the world how dangerous our world would be if big countries simply invaded their peaceful neighbors with impunity," said the American, who ended by recalling that his country is "doubling down" their alliances, as well as "intensifying planning, coordination and training with our friends" throughout the region.
China's response to this latest reference to Taiwan came from Jing Jianfeng, a lieutenant general of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). "There is only one China in the world and the island of Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's sacred territory. The Taiwan issue relates to China's core interest and there is no room for compromise or compromise. The PLA remains fully prepared and ready to firmly defend China's sovereignty and territorial integrity at any time," Jing said without departing from the official script set from the top of the ruling Communist Party.
Austin maintained the usual hard line while these days since the Biden administration they have been releasing to the press that they are trying by all means to cool relations with China and redirect certain (security) exchanges that have been totally broken since the crisis unleashed by the Chinese spy balloon that flew over US territory in February.
At the last G7 summit in Hiroshima, President Joe Biden already mentioned that he expected an imminent "thaw" in relations. Proof of this was the meeting held in Vienna at the beginning of May by the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Wang Yi, the Asian giant's foreign policy boss. To this approach should be added the information published on Friday by the 'Financial Times' about a secret trip to China in May by CIA director Bill Burns, one of the president's most trusted officials, who would have met with his counterpart. of Beijing and other senior Chinese officials.
"A complete break in US-China relations would be devastating to the world. If you don't have the pressure valve of dialogue, then there is always a much greater risk that assumptions will turn into unrecoverable actions and reactions," he stressed. in the opening speech of the forum the Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese.
In addition to the constant struggle between the two leading world powers, on Singapore's agenda there is also the arms rampage that North Korea is hitting with its constant ballistic missile tests. And, of course, the war in Ukraine. In this section, he highlighted the intervention on Saturday by Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs, who asked for more support for kyiv.
"If we stop supporting the Ukrainian army, the war will end in a couple of weeks. But how? If the answer matters, we cannot stop supporting Ukraine," Borrell said in front of representatives of countries that make up the group. of the "non-aligned", those who defend their neutral position on the Russian invasion, as in the case of China or Indonesia.
It was precisely the Indonesian Defense Minister, Prabowo Subianto, who presented a new peace plan for the war at the forum: immediate ceasefire; withdrawal of 15 kilometers of troops from both sides and creation of a demilitarized zone in the middle; immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers; UN referendum in the occupied territories.
It is a much more concise proposal than the peace plan published by Beijing at the beginning of the year, but security analysts present in Singapore believe that the Indonesian road map remains unaffordable for Kiev and the rest of the European allies. .
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