SINGAPORE — China’s defense minister has defended sailing a warship into the path of a US destroyer and a Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan Strait, telling a meeting of some of the world’s top defense officials on Sunday in Singapore than so-called «freedom of navigation» patrols. they are a provocation for China.

In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in March, General Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China has no problem with «innocent passage» but «we must avoid attempts to use that freedom of expression». navigation (patrols), that innocent step, to exercise the hegemony of navigation”.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the same forum on Saturday that Washington would «not flinch at intimidation or coercion» from China and would continue to regularly sail and overfly the Taiwan Strait and China Sea. Meridional to emphasize that they are international waters. counter Beijing’s extensive territorial claims.

Earlier that day, a US guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship while transiting the strait between the autonomous island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China. The Chinese ship overtook the American ship and then veered across her bow at a range of 150 yards in an «unsafe manner,» according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.

In addition, the US said a Chinese J-16 fighter late last month «performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver» by intercepting a US Air Force reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea, which was flying directly in front of the nose of the aircraft.

Those and previous incidents have raised concerns about the possibility of an accident that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time when tensions are already high.

Li suggested that the US and its allies had created the danger and should instead focus on taking «good care of their own airspace and territorial waters.»

“The best way is for countries, especially countries’ warships and warplanes, not to carry out lockdown actions on other countries’ territories,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”