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US defense chief hails security partnerships in Asia amid threats from Russia, China


US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday welcomed the arrival of a “new convergence” in the Indo-Pacific, as the United States strengthens its strategic and security partnerships in the region in the face of growing threats of China and Russia.

“Today we are seeing a new convergence around almost every aspect of security in the Indo-Pacific region,” Austin said at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore.

“This new convergence produces a stronger, more resilient and more efficient network of partnerships. And it defines a new era of security in the Indo-Pacific.

The new convergence is not “a single alliance or coalition,” but rather “a set of overlapping and complementary initiatives and institutions, propelled by both a shared vision and a shared sense of obligation mutual,” Austin said.

In this regional vision, a more assertive China looms large, to which Austin alluded without mentioning it by name.

Convergence, he said, is not about “imposing the will of a country” or “intimidation or coercion”, but about common principles and beliefs, including “the peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue – not coercion or conflict.” And certainly not through so-called punishment.”

The remark appears to be a thinly veiled reference to Chinese military exercises around Taiwan last week, which Beijing says constitute “severe punishment” for the self-ruled island’s “separatist acts.” The massive show of force came just days after Taiwan swore in its new democratically elected leader, Lai Ching-te, who called on Beijing to stop its intimidation tactics.

Austin said the new convergence has helped the United States make “historic progress” over the past three years. “We have strengthened stability on the Korean Peninsula. We have supported the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. And we have defended the rule of law in the South China Sea,” he said.

Under President Joe Biden, the United States has strengthened ties with like-minded allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to counter a rising China, which under Xi Jinping’s leadership has become increasingly assertive and belligerent regarding its numerous maritime and territorial claims in the region – from Taiwan to the East and South China Seas.

This strengthening of ties with the United States has infuriated Beijing, which accuses Washington of leading a major campaign of “encirclement and repression” of China.

Austin’s emphasis on a “new convergence” in the Asia-Pacific appeared to have struck a chord with the Chinese delegation in the audience.

During the question-and-answer session, a Chinese colonel asked Austin whether the United States planned to build a NATO-like alliance system in the Asia-Pacific region and blamed NATO for responsibility for the war in Ukraine.

“The expansion of NATO’s eastern borders led to the Ukrainian crisis. In your opinion, what implications will the recovery of the US alliance system in the Asia-Pacific region have for the security and stability of this region? asked Cao Yanzhong, senior colonel and researcher at the Institute of War Studies of the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese Army.

“I respectfully disagree with your argument that NATO expansion caused the Ukraine crisis,” Austin responded, drawing a rare round of applause from the audience.

“The Ukrainian crisis was obviously caused by Mr. Putin’s decision to illegally invade his neighbor.”

The exchange came a day after Austin held his first face-to-face talks with China’s Minister of National Defense, Admiral Dong Jun, on the sidelines of the defense forum.

The rare talks between the U.S. and Chinese defense chiefs touched on a host of sensitive issues, including Taiwan and China’s relations with Russia, as well as friction in the South China Sea.

On Saturday, Austin mentioned the meeting with Dong in his speech, saying they had a “frank discussion.”

“Nothing can replace direct military talks between senior leaders. And there is no substitute for open lines of communication to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations,” he said, adding that he looked forward to further discussions with China.

Austin also reiterated the United States’ commitment to its defense treaty with the Philippines, calling it “ironclad.”

Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr on Friday denounced illegal, coercive and aggressive actions in the South China Sea during the opening of the defense forum, saying peace, stability and prosperity in the waters were compromised by d other actors, without naming China.

Austin also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, saying peace and stability in the region are crucial for the entire world.

“The United States can only be secure if Asia is secure. This is why the United States has maintained its presence in this region for a long time. And that is why we continue to make the investments necessary to meet our commitments to our allies and partners,” he said.

News Source :
Gn world

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