SINGAPORE, June 3 (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed Saturday that Washington will not tolerate any “coercion and bullying” by China against its allies and partners, while assuring Beijing that the U.S. remains committed to the status quo Taiwan, prefers dialogue to conflict.
Speaking at the so-called Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum that brings together senior defense officials, diplomats and leaders, Austin lobbied for Washington’s vision of “a free, open and A secure Indo-Pacific”” as the best way to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
The United States has been expanding its activities in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s sweeping territorial claims, including regular sailings and overflights over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
“We are committed to ensuring that every country can fly, sail and operate within the limits of international law,” he said. “Every nation, big or small, must be free to engage in lawful maritime activities.”
Austin noted that the United States provided millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during the peak of the pandemic and regularly participates in disaster relief and humanitarian aid efforts in the region. He said it was working to tackle climate change, illegal fishing and ensure that supply chains were not disrupted — touching on many issues important to the Asia-Pacific nation.
“We are doubling down on our alliances and partnerships,” he said.
The United States is also committed to deterring North Korea’s missile threat and China’s claim to Taiwan, which Beijing says is a self-governing democratic island, and said Washington has been stepping up defense planning, coordination and training with partner nations, he said. area.
“To be clear, we are not seeking conflict or confrontation,” he said. “But we will not back down in the face of bullying or coercion.”
Austin assured that the United States remained “firmly committed” to the longstanding one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing as the Chinese government but allows informal relations with Taiwan, and continued to “resolutely oppose any unilateral change in the status quo by either side.”
He added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted how dangerous the world would be if major powers could “invade their peaceful neighbors at will with impunity”.
“Conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable,” Austin said. “Deterrence is strong today — it’s our job to maintain it. The world has a stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” (Associated Press)
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