Ukraine’s Zelenskyy dominates Asia security conference as China, Taiwan trade barbs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Singapore's Prime Minister Lawrence Wong meet in Singapore, June 2, 2024. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

SINGAPORE — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s unscheduled appearance at Asia’s biggest security conference dominated proceedings on Sunday after China’s defense chief slammed “separatists” in Taiwan, drawing a sharp response from the government in Taipei.

Dressed in his trademark olive green T-shirt, Zelenskyy addressed the last day of the Shangri-La Dialogue forum in Singapore, asking for support and participation at a summit in Switzer-land later this month aimed at bringing peace to his war-ravaged nation.


“We are convinced that our world wants to be united and be capable of acting in complete harmony,” he said to a ballroom packed full of delegates in formal business wear and military uniforms.

Reuters was first to report that Zelenskyy would make an unscripted appearance at the conference, his second visit to Asia since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Zelenskyy told a news conference that he was not able to meet the Chinese delegation at the conference and was disappointed that Beijing would not attend the summit.

“China, unfortunately… is working for countries not to come to the peace summit,” he said.

Earlier, China’s defense chief, Dong Jun, warned that prospects of a peaceful “reunification” of Taiwan were being eroded, and promised to ensure the island would never gain independence.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, over the strong objections of the government in Taipei, and last month staged war games around the island in anger at the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te, who Beijing calls a “separatist”.

“Those separatists recently made fanatical statements that show their betrayal of the Chinese nation and their ancestors. They will be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” Dong said.

He added that although China was committed to peaceful reunification with Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army “will remain a strong force for upholding national reunification”.

Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said in response that it deeply regretted the “provocative and irrational” comments, and reiterated that the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island.

China has repeatedly threatened force against Taiwan at international venues, and its threats violate the United Nations charter, the council said in a statement.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Dong’s speech covered little new ground.

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