‘United States can be secure only if Asia is’: Defence chief Austin

by Admin
'United States can be secure only if Asia is': Defence chief Austin

Austin met with Dong on Friday for the first substantive face-to-face talks between the two countries’ defence chiefs in 18 months, offering hopes for further military dialogue that could help prevent flashpoint disputes from spinning out of control.

Austin said the United States and China would resume military-to-military communications “in the coming months”, while Beijing hailed the “stabilising” security relations between the countries.

But in his speech on Saturday, Austin appeared to take shots at China, saying there was a “new era of security in the Indo-Pacific” that was not “about imposing one country’s will” or “bullying or coercion”.

“This new convergence is about coming together and not splitting apart,” Austin said. “It’s about the free choices of sovereign states.”

The Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States, is a key focus of Washington’s efforts to strengthen alliances in the region.

Austin said the harassment faced by the Philippines in the South China Sea was dangerous and reiterated that the US mutual defence treaty with Manila was ironclad. He added that the aim was to ensure that tensions between Beijing and Manila do not spiral out of control.

Leaders of great power nations need to continue to work together to reduce the opportunities for miscalculations and misunderstandings, Austin said, adding that it is, at the same time, important for the US to support its allies.

“America will continue to play a vital role in the Indo-Pacific, together with our friends across the region that we share and care so much about,” Austin said.

When asked by a Chinese delegate, Senior Colonel Cao Yanzhong, if the US is trying to build a NATO-like alliance in Asia, Austin said he disagreed with the view that the Ukraine crisis was caused by NATO’s expansion.

“I respectfully disagree with your point that the expansion of NATO caused the Ukraine crisis,” he responded, drawing applause from some in the ballroom.

“The Ukraine crisis obviously was caused because Mr Putin made a decision to unlawfully invade his neighbour who had an inferior military at that point in time. He assumed he could very quickly roll over his neighbour and annex the country, That was two-plus years ago. He has not achieved any of his strategic objectives to this point,” Austin said. 

“As to whether or not we are trying to create a NATO in the Indo-Pacific, I would tell you that what we’re doing is … like-minded countries with similar values and a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific are working together to achieve that vision. 

“We strengthen relationships with our allies and partners and we see other countries strengthening their relationships with each other in the region,” he continued.

“This is goodness, but it’s because they have a common vision and common values, and we will continue to do those kind of things going forward.”

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