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US not trying to establish NATO in Indo-Pacific, Defense Secretary Austin says

Austin, who is currently touring four countries, landed in India on Sunday Image Courtesy ANI

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has claimed that the United States is not trying to build the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Indo-Pacific region. He also said the United States will continue to cooperate with other like-minded nations to ensure the region is free and open.

While responding to a media question about the Chinese defense minister’s statement, Austin told a press conference, “We are absolutely not trying to establish a NATO in the Indo-Pacific. We continue to work with like-minded countries to ensure the region remains free and open so that trade can thrive and ideas can continue to be exchanged.

“We will continue this work. Certainly, India and we share the same vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.

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This statement by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin came in reaction to China’s statement regarding NATO, it was said. According to a Channel News Asia report, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu had warned against NATO-style military alliances in the Asia-Pacific, saying they would send the region into a “whirlwind” of violence.

Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, he said: “Essentially, attempts to push for NATO-like (alliances) in the Asia-Pacific region are a way to take away countries in the region and to exaggerate conflicts and confrontations, which will only plunge the Asia-Pacific into a whirlwind of disputes and conflicts.

Austin, who is currently touring four countries, landed in India on Sunday. India is the third destination after Singapore and Japan.

Meanwhile, on the likelihood of mishaps that may take place in the India-China Line of Real Control (LAC), Austin said, “As for what might happen along the LAC, I will not go into no kind of speculation, but a number of things can always happen.. but we want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure things don’t happen. And part of that is being able to communicate with major powers and each other to prevent incidents from spiraling out of control. So I’m not going to… speculate on whether or not there will be an additional misadventure, but I certainly hope not.

Austin and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh held a bilateral meeting and delegation-level discussions earlier in the day where they reached agreement on a roadmap for defense industrial cooperation. This roadmap will identify opportunities for co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and enable increased cooperation between the two countries’ defense start-up ecosystems.

(With contributions from the agency)

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