United States (US) Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, has iterated that the US will stand by its allies and partners in the Asia Pacific as he accused China of “provocative and destabilising” military activity around Taiwan, and an increasingly “coercive and aggressive” approach to its wide-ranging maritime claims in the Asia Pacific.
In a nearly hour-long address to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin stressed that the US is committed to the “rules-based international order” and would work in partnership to maintain peace and stability in the region. He said that the US policy over Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own, remained the same.
He told delegates at the security forum that “Our policy hasn’t changed”, adding that “unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be the same for the PRC [People’s Republic of China]”.
“The PRC moves threaten to undermine peace and stability. That isn’t just a US interest, it’s a matter of international concern.”United States (US) Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin
China’s Willingness to go to war
Lloyd Austin’s comments came a day after his first face-to-face talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, in which Wei iterated China’s willingness to go to war to prevent Taiwan from becoming independent.
Beijing has increased its military activities around the island in recent years, regularly sending sorties (a deployment or dispatch of one military unit, be it an aircraft, ship, or troops, from a strong point) into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, including 30 planes at the end of May 2022.
Austin also disclosed concerns about Beijing’s increasingly assertive approach in both the East and South China Sea, which are areas where he said Beijing is being more “coercive and aggressive” in its determination to push forward its maritime claims. He stressed that the US would maintain its “active presence” across the Asia Pacific.
“We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and we will do this alongside our partners,” Austin intimated.
“Let me be clear, we do not seek confrontation or conflict. We do not seek a new Cold War, an Asian NATO or a region split into hostile blocs… [but] we will defend our interests without flinching.”United States (US) Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin