Russia’s defence minister accused the United States on Monday of fuelling geopolitical tensions to uphold its “global dominance by any means” and warned of the risk of confrontation between nuclear-armed countries.
Speaking at a defence forum in Beijing, Sergei Shoigu also accused NATO of trying to expand its footprint in the Asia-Pacific under the pretense of seeking dialogue and collaboration with regional countries.
“Washington for years has deliberately undermined and destroyed the foundations of international security and strategic stability, including the system of arms control agreements,” Shoigu said at the Xiangshan Forum, China’s biggest annual event centred on military diplomacy.
He added that the U.S. and its Western allies are threatening Russia through NATO’s expansion “to the east.” Shoigu also reiterated Moscow’s stance that Russia was open to negotiations about the war in Ukraine under what he described as the right conditions.
“The Western line of steady escalation of the conflict with Russia carries the threat of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” he said.
Shoigu’s speech followed that of Zhang Youxia, China’s second-ranking military official and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, who opened the three-day event in the absence of former defence minister Gen. Li Shangfu, who would have normally hosted the event.
Li was removed from his position last week after a two-month absence from public view. The government has not provided any reason for his removal.
The Beijing event, attended by military representatives from dozens of countries, is an occasion for China to project regional leadership and boost military co-operation. The U.S. is represented by a delegation led by Xanthi Carras, the Defense Department’s leading official on China.
Zhang said China was “willing to develop military ties with the U.S. on the basis of mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and win-win co-operation.”
China suspended military communication with the U.S. in August 2022 to show its displeasure over a visit by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Without directly naming the U.S., Zhang criticized “certain countries” that “keep stirring up troubles around the world.”
He also urged for “an immediate ceasefire” in the latest Israel-Hamas war, sparked by the Palestinian militant group’s deadly Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel, and called for a “resumption of peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians.
China claims it’s neutral in Russia’s war on Ukraine but maintains close ties with Russia, with frequent state visits and joint military drills between the two nations. It has similarly sought to project a mediator role in the Israel-Hamas war, though experts say Beijing’s influence in the conflict is limited.
Zhang reiterated threats by the Chinese government regarding any efforts toward Taiwan’s independence, saying that “no matter who tries to split Taiwan from China in any form, China and the Chinese military will never allow that to happen.”