China will 'not hesitate to start war' over Taiwan, Beijing tells US
China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe attends the opening reception at the Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 10, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) — Beijing will "not hesitate to start a war" if Taiwan declares independence, China's defence minister warned his US counterpart Friday in the pair's first face-to-face talks, officials said.

"If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost," Wu Qian quoted defence minister Wei Fenghe as saying during a meeting with Lloyd Austin.

The Chinese minister also vowed that Beijing would "smash to smithereens any 'Taiwan independence' plot and resolutely uphold the unification of the motherland", according to the Chinese defence ministry.

He "stressed that Taiwan is China's Taiwan... Using Taiwan to contain China will never prevail", the ministry said.

Austin told his Chinese counterpart during the talks in Singapore that Beijing must "refrain from further destabilising actions toward Taiwan", the US Department of Defense said.

Taiwan, a self-ruled, democratic island, lives under the constant threat of invasion by China. Beijing views the island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

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