US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warns of ‘devastating' Taiwan conflict, criticizes China at Shangri-La security summit

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warns of ‘devastating' Taiwan conflict, criticizes China at Shangri-La security summit


Haley Britzky

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Brad Lendon is CNN

Singapore (CNN). A war over Taiwan could be devastating and impact the global economy in ways that we can't imagine. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned this while reiterating the US's support for the island's democracy.

Conflict is neither imminent or inevitable. Austin stated that deterrence was strong in the present day, and it is our responsibility to maintain it.

The world is interested in maintaining stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait. It is essential for the security of global supply chains and commercial shipping routes. Freedom of navigation is important for everyone. 'Make no mistake, a conflict in the Taiwan Strait could be devastating.

Austin said in a Q&A session following his speech: "Conflicts in the Taiwan Strait will affect the global economic in ways that we cannot imagine."

China's ruling Communist Party has claimed Taiwan as its territory despite having never controlled it. Its increasingly frequent military drills near and around the island raise concerns about what it will do to achieve this claim. China's leader Xi Jinping is clear that he has not ruled out using force.

Austin's remarks come at a time when relations between the US & China are tense. China has recently refused Austin's offer to meet with them at the Singapore summit, citing US sanctions against Chinese officials and businesses.

Austin, in his Saturday speech, addressed the lack of communication by saying that he was 'deeply worried' that the People's Republic of China has not been willing to seriously engage on better mechanisms for crisis-management.

"For leaders who are responsible, the best time to speak is at any moment. Every time is the right time to speak. Austin stated that the best time to speak is right now. "Dialogue isn't a reward." It's a necessity.

Austin said that he and Chinese Minister of Defense Li Shangfu smiled at each other during a banquet on Friday night. He called for Beijing to do more.

He said that a cordial handshake at dinner was not a substitute for a serious commitment.

Austin outlined the ways in which the US partners with its allies, saying these partnerships bring the region together and make it "more stable and resilient."

Austin reiterated that the US would 'continue standing by our allies as they uphold the rights of their partners' and maintain "our vigorous, responsibility presence across the Indo-Pacific."

Austin, who criticized China for the 'alarming' number of interceptions of US and allies aircraft in international airspace by its military, added that US would stand with allies and partners to fight 'coercion' and 'bullying'.

Austin stated that he did not want to be in a conflict. Austin said: 'We will not back down in the face coercion or bullying.'

Austin reaffirmed US preparedness in the region.

In response to a query, he stated that a military that is combat credible would be the best way to deter misguided decisions. He also added that the US "will be prepared no matter what."

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