The US Secretary of Defense praises security partnerships in Asia in the face of the threats of Russia and China


Singapore
CNN

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday praised the arrival of a “new rapprochement” in the Indo-Pacific region, at a time when the United States is strengthening its strategic and security partnerships in the region amid increasing threats from China and Russia.

“Today, we are witnessing a new convergence on almost all aspects of security in the Indo-Pacific region,” Austin said at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue Forum in Singapore.

“This new convergence produces a stronger, more resilient and more capable network of partnerships. This defines a new era of security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Austin said the new convergence is not “a single alliance or coalition,” but rather “a set of overlapping and complementary initiatives and institutions, driven by a common vision and a shared sense of mutual commitment.”

Looming on the horizon in this regional vision is a more assertive China, which Austin alluded to without mentioning it by name.

He said rapprochement is not about “imposing the will of one country” or “bullying or coercion,” but rather about shared principles and beliefs including “the peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue – not coercion or conflict.” And certainly not through so-called punishment.

The statement appeared to be an implicit reference to Chinese military exercises around Taiwan last week, which Beijing said was “strong punishment” for “separatist actions” by the self-ruled island. The massive show of force came just days after Taiwan’s new democratically elected leader, Lai Ching-te, called on Beijing to stop its intimidation tactics.

Austin said the new rapprochement has helped the United States achieve “historic progress” in the past three years. We have enhanced stability on the Korean Peninsula. We have supported the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. We have defended the rule of law in the South China Sea.”

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Under President Joe Biden, the United States has strengthened its relationships with like-minded allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to confront a rising China, which under the leadership of Xi Jinping has become increasingly assertive and aggressive over its numerous maritime and territorial claims in the region. – From Taiwan to the East and South China Seas.

The strengthening of US relations has angered Beijing, which accuses Washington of leading a campaign of “encirclement and suppression” of China.

Austin’s focus on the “new convergence” in the Asia-Pacific region seemed to strike a chord with the Chinese delegation in the audience.

In the question-and-answer session, a Chinese colonel asked Austin whether the United States was planning to build a NATO-like alliance system in the Asia-Pacific region, and blamed NATO for the Ukraine war.

“The expansion of NATO’s eastern borders has led to the Ukrainian crisis. What consequences do you think the adjustment of the US alliance system in the Asia-Pacific region will have on the security and stability of this region?” asked Cao Yanzhong, a senior colonel and researcher at the Academy’s Institute for the Study of War. Military science of the Chinese army.

“I respectfully disagree with your view that NATO expansion caused the Ukraine crisis,” Austin responded, drawing a rare round of applause from the audience.

He added, “It is clear that the Ukrainian crisis was because (Russian President) Mr. (Vladimir) Putin made the decision to illegally invade his neighbor.”

The exchange came a day after Austin held his first direct talks with Chinese Minister of National Defense Admiral Dong Jun on the sidelines of the defense forum.

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The rare talks between the US and Chinese defense ministers touched on a range of contentious issues, including Taiwan and China’s relationship with Russia, as well as frictions in the South China Sea.

On Saturday, Austin mentioned the meeting with Dong in his speech, saying they had a “frank discussion.”

“There is no alternative to direct military talks between senior leaders. “There is no substitute for open lines of communication to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments,” he said, adding that he looked forward to further talks with China.

Austin also affirmed the United States’ commitment to the defense treaty with the Philippines, describing it as “strict.”

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday denounced illegal, coercive and aggressive actions in the South China Sea during the opening of a defense forum, saying peace, stability and prosperity in the waters are being undermined by other actors, without mentioning China by name.

Austin also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, saying that peace and stability throughout the region are crucial to the entire world.

“The United States can only be safe if Asia is safe. That is why the United States has long maintained a presence in this region. That is why we continue to make the investments necessary to meet our commitments to our allies and partners.”

Hours after Austin reaffirmed America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, a Chinese military spokesman accused the United States of “creating division and provoking confrontation.”

“The United States continues to create chaos and has become a source of dangers, as well as a destroyer of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” Geng Jianfeng, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of China’s Central Military Commission, told a group of experts. To reporters in Singapore.

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