Chinese Defence Minister opposes sanctions and foreign interference, Australian Defence Minister calls for safe interactions in Indo-Pacific at Shangri-La Dialogue

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Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles (left) and Li Shangfu. Picture source: Twitter/@RichardMarlesMP

4th June 2023 – (Singapore) Chinese State Councillor and Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu has cautioned against foreign interference in the internal and regional affairs of other countries. Speaking at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Li expressed concern over countries resorting to unilateral sanctions and “colour revolutions” in certain regions, calling for such acts to be prevented from being replicated in the Asia-Pacific region.

Li’s comments come at a time of heightened tensions in the region, particularly concerning the Taiwan Strait. Recently, the U.S. and Canada sailed warships through the strait, a move that China condemned as provocative. The Chinese PLA warned against any attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, pledging to take necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and regional peace and stability.

Li stressed the need for peaceful resolution to conflicts and tensions in the region, calling for greater dialogue and cooperation among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the field of security. Meanwhile, Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles met with Li on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue and emphasised the importance of safe and professional interactions between military planes and ships in the Indo-Pacific region.

Marles also raised concerns about human rights issues and the detention of Australian citizens during talks with Li. Marles’ meeting with Li is seen as an attempt to stabilize the relationship between the two countries, following a period of strained relations. The meeting is noteworthy because Li refused to have a formal meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had expressed concerns about China’s conduct in intercepting US and allied aircraft flying in international airspace.

Li’s speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue underscores the importance of peaceful and constructive engagement among countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The ongoing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and other areas require careful attention and engagement from all actors to prevent conflicts and ensure regional peace and stability. As Li noted, mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit should serve as the guiding principles in international relations, and cooperation and dialogue among countries are essential to achieving these objectives.