June 20, 2024

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‘America can only be safe if Asia is safe,’ says US minister

‘America can only be safe if Asia is safe,’ says US minister

The United States “can only be secure if it is in Asia,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Singapore on Saturday, assuring the Asia-Pacific region was a “priority” for Washington.

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Lloyd Austin spoke the day after rare talks with his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun, were described as “positive” by a Beijing spokesman.

“America can only be secure if Asia is secure, which is why America has maintained its presence in the region for so long,” Mr. Austin said at the Shangri-La Dialogue Forum’s annual security conference, which runs through Sunday. It has become a barometer of Sino-US relations in recent years.

He added that despite conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific “remains our priority theater of operations” for the United States.

The United States seeks to strengthen its alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly with the Philippines, to counter China’s growing military power and influence.



AFP

Washington has ramped up joint military exercises and regularly stationed warships and warplanes in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, angering Chinese leaders.

The forum, attended by several security officials from around the world, comes a week after major Chinese-led military maneuvers during which Chinese warships and warplanes circled Taiwan, over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

Resuming the conversation

Interview between M.M. Dong and Austin on Friday were the first major meeting between the two countries’ defense chiefs in 18 months, raising hopes of a series of military talks to help prevent the conflict from spiraling out of control.

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Austin said the US and China would resume military-to-military contacts “in the coming months”. For its part, Beijing welcomed the “stabilization” of security ties between the two countries.

But in his speech on Saturday, the US minister appeared to hit back at China, saying it was opening “a new era of security in the Indo-Pacific region” and that it was “not the imposition of a country’s will” or “intimidation”. or coercion”.

“This new integration is about uniting, not dividing,” Austin said. “It’s about the free choice of sovereign nations.”

The Philippines, linked to the United States through a mutual defense treaty, has been at the center of Washington’s efforts in the region.

The support of the Philippines, a country bordering the South China Sea and close to Taiwan, could be crucial for the US in the event of a conflict.

Austin on Saturday stressed that the United States’ commitment to protect the Philippines under its mutual defense agreement was “unwavering” amid rising tensions between Chinese and Philippine ships in the South China Sea.