Chinese defence minister warned his US counterpart that "if anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost".

Wei Fenghe vowed that Beijing would
Wei Fenghe vowed that Beijing would "smash to smithereens any 'Taiwan independence' plot and resolutely uphold the unification of the motherland". (Reuters)

Beijing will "not hesitate to start a war" if Taiwan declares independence, China's defence minister has warned his US counterpart, the latest salvo between the superpowers over the island.

The warning from Wei Fenghe came on Friday as he held his first face-to-face meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.

Wei warned Austin that "if anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost", defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian quoted the minister as saying during the meeting.

The Chinese minister 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 "reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the (Taiwan) Strait, opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo, and called on (China) to refrain from further destabilising actions toward Taiwan", according to the US Department of Defense.

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US-China tensions

Beijing views democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if necessary, and US-China tensions over the issue have soared in recent months.

Tensions over Taiwan have escalated in particular due to increasing Chinese aircraft incursions into the island's air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

US President Joe Biden, during a visit to Japan last month, appeared to break decades of US policy when, in response to a question, he said Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if it is attacked by China.

The White House has since insisted its policy of "strategic ambiguity" over whether or not it would intervene has not changed. 

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Austin is the latest senior US official to visit Asia as Washington seeks to shift its foreign policy focus back to the region from the Ukraine war.

As well as on Taiwan, China and the United States have been locked in a range of other disputes.

They have been at loggerheads over Russia's attack on Ukraine, with Washington accusing Beijing of providing tacit support for Moscow.

Source: AFP