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China says war with US would be a disaster as tensions mount

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Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan talks to media during a news briefing after his meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu in Jakarta

U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who spoke to the same gathering on Saturday, was not present at Wei's speech.

Wu told reporters that the US has recently "had a series of negative words and deeds" on Taiwan issues. However, Shanahan still took time to address China's continued construction of militarization of artificial islands reclaimed from the rocks and reefs in the area, pointing out that the artificial features could become metaphorical "toll booths" must not become the "toolkit of coercion".

"Perhaps the greatest long-term threat to the vital interests of states across this region comes from actors who seek to undermine, rather than uphold, the rules-based global order", Shanahan said in his first major speech since taking over as acting defence secretary in January.

For years, American defense secretaries have used the Shangri-La conference's podium to condemn China for its militarization of outposts in contested areas of the South China Sea and for conducting cyber espionage against USA technology programs.

"We're not going to ignore Chinese behaviour and I think in the past people have kind of tiptoed around that", Shanahan said later, in answer to a question.

Beijing is ready to fight to the end to protect its national interests both economically, amid the trade war with the U.S., and militarily, if any outside force dares to challenge One China policy and split Taiwan from the mainland. "This is about security", Shanahan said. The report comes as tensions over the water, dubbed the richest in the world, continue to escalate between China, the United States and other neighbouring nations of the sea.

China condemned the statement, warning they are ready to use military "at all costs" if anyone tries to separate Taiwan from its territory.

He also dismissed suggestions that his speech this year was much of the same as that voiced by previous US speakers at the summit, pointing out that this time there was funding, resources, and a plan to back them up.

A similar message was personally delivered to acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan when the two held brief talks on Friday in Singapore on the sidelines of the summit.

"I was very impressed and I certainly am looking much more positively on potentially voting for him when his confirmation happens", Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth told reporters.

His nomination, if and when it comes, will have to be confirmed by the US Senate.

"The way he laid out the facts and the United States' position in a firm way, but very upfront, impressed me tremendously", Duckworth added.

"We want to ensure no adversary believes it can successfully achieve political objectives through military force", he said.

The United States warned China on Saturday against threatening its neighbors' sovereignty and said Washington was investing in new military technology in the next five years to keep Asia stable. Wei took a more combative approach. Huawei, the world's largest telecoms equipment maker, has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

His remarks underscore the US' frayed relations with China, as US President Donald Trump's administration wages a trade dispute with Beijing, imposes sanctions on Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co (華為) and approves a weapons sale to Taiwan.

He said the two men discussed "ways to build military-to-military relations that reduce the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation between our nations".

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