Amid ongoing trade war with the US and tension over the South China Sea, Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said on Sunday that Beijing's door is still open for talks but warned that it was "ready to fight till the end" if a fight is what America wants.
Addressing the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue here, Gen Wei also said that telecom giant Huawei is not a military company and defended the Tiananmen Square massacre where Chinese army tanks were used on protestors 30 years ago.
The US and China are locked in a bitter, year-long trade dispute which has seen the Trump administration recently boost tariffs on USD 250 billion of Chinese goods.
US President Donald Trump is demanding China to reduce the massive trade deficit which last year climbed to over USD 539 billion. He is pressing for verifiable measures for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.
"On the trade friction started by the US: if the US wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we are ready," General Wei said while speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
He asserted that Huawei is not a military company despite despite its founder Ren Zhengfei's previous career in the army.
"Huawei is not a military company. Do not think that because the head of Huawei used to serve in the military, then the company that he built is part of the military," General Wei said.
"It doesn't make sense because these sorts of ex-servicemen, upon their retirement, a lot of them have set up companies in countries across the world," said Gen Wei, the first Chinese defence minister to attend the forum since 2011.
The US placed Huawei on an "entity list" on grounds of national security on May 16, a move that curbs its access to US-made components it needs for its equipment. The Department of Commerce alleged that Huawei was engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interest.
The Trump administration later issued a 90-day reprieve on its ban on dealing with Huawei, saying breathing space was needed to allow for software updates and other contractual obligations.
China's commerce ministry last week said it will release its own list of "unreliable entities".
Gen Wei also defended the 30-year old Tiananmen Square massacre, saying it was correct decision for stability in his country.
"That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy," he told the forum.
"The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes... because of the government's action, China has enjoyed stability and development," he said.
Pointing out that he was at the Dialogue for the first times as China's defence minister, Gen Wei began politely "I am here for mutual confidence, cooperation and peace. I am glad to speak on China and International Security Cooperation."
But went on to say: "We take note that the US expounded on its perspective on regional affairs yesterday (Saturday). We believe that any such perspective should take into account the common security and interests of regional countries.
"No approaches to regional issues should resort to military blocs, nor should they undermine the interests of others.
"We hold different views with the US side on several issues, and firmly oppose its wrong words and actions concerning Taiwan and the South China Sea," he said, responding strongly on the Taiwan question.
China claims that Taiwan which broke away in 1949 is part of Chinese mainland and is opposed to any country having diplomatic contacts with Taipei.
He stressed that China and the self-ruled island must be reunified.
"If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity," the defence minister said.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the sea.
China has been trying to expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific, which is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.
US military officials, meanwhile, have vowed to continue enforcing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
China doesn't accept the Indo-Pacific, coined by the US, as a region and prefers to have it called Asia Pacific, delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue noted.
US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M Shanahan, in his speech at the Dialogue on Saturay, underlined his country's strong presence in the region at the displeasure of Beijing.
"We are a Pacific nation. We are a resident power, with deep economic, cultural, and personal connections that inextricably link us with the growth and vitality of the world’s most dynamic region," he said.
The Shangri-La Dialogue has become a China-US front with confrontational exchanges by top speakers in recent years.