The United States will play its part in controlling China’s tensions and preventing tensions even though Beijing is increasingly aggressive in the Asian region, including near Taiwan, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday.
Relations between China and the United States have been strained in recent months, as two of the world’s largest economies clash over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military operations in the South China Sea.
In a meeting between Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Friday, both sides reiterated that they wanted to better manage their relations even though there were no signs of any success in resolving the dispute.
Speaking to Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s largest security summit, Austin said the United States would continue to stand with its partners, including Taiwan.
“That is very important as the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is using a compelling and powerful approach to its local claims,” he said.
China claims Taiwan’s independence and vowed to seize it if necessary. Austin said there had been an “alarming” increase in the number of unsafe and useless interactions between Chinese and international airlines.
A Chinese military plane accidentally blocked an Australian military patrol in the South China Sea region in May and Canadian troops blamed Chinese warplanes for harassing patrol planes as they monitored North Korean sanctions.
Taiwan has complained for many years about the Chinese air force’s visit to its air defense zone, which is not an airspace but a comprehensive threat zone. Austin said the attack had escalated in recent months.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry thanked the United States on Friday for its support and condemned China’s “irrational” imperialist allegations.
“Taiwan has never been under the control of the Chinese government, and the people of Taiwan will not allow themselves to be intimidated by the Chinese government,” said spokeswoman Joanne Ou.
Austin said the United States’ policy on Taiwan should always be opposed to any changes related to the status quo. “Our goal has not changed. But unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case with the PRC, ”Austin said.
However, he added: “We will do our part to manage these conflicts effectively, to prevent conflict, and to pursue peace and prosperity.”
Biden said last month the United States would be involved in military action if China invaded Taiwan, although officials had made it clear that US policy on the issue had not changed. Washington has had a long-standing policy of ambiguity over whether to defend Taiwan militarily. Austin and Wei’s meeting is very focused on Taiwan.
“Maintaining peace and stability throughout the Taiwan Strait is not just a U.S. affair. It’s a matter of global concern, ”Austin said.
There is no NATO in Asia
In a speech focused on US commitments to the region, Austin said the United States would retain its presence in Asia but Washington understood the need to prevent conflict.
“We do not want to quarrel or quarrel. And we do not want a new Cold War, NATO of Asia, or a region divided by hostile blocks, ”he said.
Austin also spoke of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been at the forefront of Washington and other Western capitals in the past three months.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is what happens when the oppressors violate the laws that protect us all,” Austin said. “It is a preview of a world in which there could be chaos and chaos that none of us would like to live in.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been scheduled to address the Shangri-La Dialogue in a public ceremony later on Saturday.
Earlier this year, Washington said China appeared ready to help Russia in its war with Ukraine. But since then, U.S. officials have said that while they are still wary of Russia’s long-term Russian support, military and economic support they are concerned about has not yet happened, at least for now.
In a separate statement on Saturday, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said military cooperation between China and Russia had strengthened security concerns in the region.
“Military cooperation between the two superpowers will undoubtedly increase international concern,” he said.
China has not condemned the Russian invasion and does not call it an invasion, but has called for a negotiated settlement. Beijing and Moscow have drawn closer in recent years, and in February, the two sides signed a comprehensive strategic alliance aimed at counteracting US influence and said “there are no ‘restricted’ areas of cooperation.”