Senior Chinese military official Zhang Youxia
Senior Chinese military official Zhang Youxia said 'some countries', which he did not name, were 'deliberately creating turmoil.' AFP

Top Chinese and Russian officials warned Monday that foreign forces were seeking to sow turmoil in Asia and beyond as they opened an international defence conference in Beijing.

Beijing has billed this week's Xiangshan Forum as its answer to Singapore's Shangri-La Dialogue and says that representatives of 90 countries are taking part, including Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

China is holding the forum without a sitting defence chief, having abruptly announced the sacking of minister Li Shangfu last week without explanation.

Speaking at the conference's opening ceremony, Zhang Youxia, one of China's most senior military officials, painted a grim picture of the international outlook, blaming countries he did not name for the turmoil.

"As we look across the world today, hotspot issues are arising one after another. The pain of war, chaos and turmoil, and loss of life are constantly playing out," Zhang said.

"Some countries, for fear that the world may stabilise, deliberately create turmoil, interfere in regional issues, interfere in other countries' internal affairs, and instigate color revolutions," he said.

"Behind the scenes, they hand out knives and think nothing of provoking people into wars, ensuring that they're the ones who benefit from the chaos," he added.

But Zhang also said China was seeking to improve military-to-military ties with the United States, with whom tensions have soared over the disputed South China Sea and Beijing's drills around the self-ruled island of Taiwan.

"We are also willing to develop China-US military relations in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation," he told delegates.

Speaking after Zhang, Russia's Shoigu also warned that Washington was seeking to provoke instability in Asia.

"Having provoked an acute crisis in Europe, the West is trying to expand the crisis potential in the Asia Pacific," he told delegates.

"Direct involvement of countries with nuclear arsenals multiplies the strategic risks," he said.

"The West's line towards escalation with Russia poses a risk of direct conflict between nuclear powers, which will result in catastrophic consequences," Shoigu added.

China has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has deepened economic, diplomatic and military cooperation with Moscow since the start of the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this month paid a two-day visit to China, his first outside the former Soviet Union this year and part of the Kremlin's drive to strengthen its economic partnerships across Asia.

And Zhang -- who embraced Shoigu on the sidelines of the forum -- pledged Monday that Beijing would seek to "deepen strategic cooperation and coordination between the Chinese and Russian militaries".

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