Despite Beijing’s increased aggressiveness in the Asian area, notably near Taiwan, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated on Saturday that the US will do its bit to moderate tensions with China and prevent conflict.
In recent months, relations between China and the United States have been heated, with the world’s two largest economies sparring over issues ranging from Taiwan to China’s human rights record to its military activities in the South China Sea.
Both Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe emphasized their desire to better manage their relationship at a meeting on Friday, while there was little hint of a breakthrough in addressing disputes.
Austin said the US would continue to stand by its allies, including Taiwan, at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security meeting.
“This is particularly critical now that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is taking a more forceful and confrontational approach to its territorial claims,” he stated.
China claims Taiwan, which is self-ruled, as its own and has threatened to take it by force if necessary.
According to Austin, the number of dangerous and unprofessional interactions between Chinese planes and vessels and those of other countries has increased “alarmingly.”
In May, a Chinese fighter jet intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea, while Canada’s military has accused Chinese warplanes of harassing its patrol planes as they monitor North Korean sanction evasions.
For years, Taiwan has complained about Chinese air force sorties into its air defense identification zone, which is a larger area it monitors for threats rather than territorial airspace. According to Austin, the number of invasions has increased in recent months.
On Friday, Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed gratitude to the US for its assistance and blasted China’s “absurd” claims of sovereignty.
“Taiwan has never been under the Chinese government’s control, and the people of Taiwan will not submit to Chinese government threats of force,” said Joanne Ou, a ministry spokeswoman.
The United States’ stance on Taiwan, according to Austin, is to resist any unilateral alterations to the status quo.
“We haven’t modified our policy.” “Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case with the PRC,” Austin explained.
“We’ll do our part to carefully manage these tensions, to prevent violence, and to achieve peace and prosperity,” he continued.
Although the administration has subsequently stressed that US policy on the subject has not changed, Biden warned last month that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan.
Washington has had a long-standing strategy of strategic ambiguity when it comes to whether it will militarily defend Taiwan.
Austin’s meeting with Wei was mostly about Taiwan.
“It is not merely a US interest to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Austin stated, “It’s an issue of worldwide importance.”
Austin said the US would retain its presence in Asia in a speech centered on the country’s commitment to the area, but that Washington recognized the need to avoid confrontation.
“We are not looking for controversy or confrontation.” And we have no desire for a new Cold War, an Asian NATO, or a region divided into antagonistic blocs,” he added.
Austin also mentioned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has been a top issue in Washington and other Western capitals in recent months.
“What happens when tyrants trample the rules that protect us all,” Austin remarked of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “It’s a glimpse into a world of chaos and upheaval that none of us wants to live in.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was set to speak at a virtual session of the Shangri-La Dialogue later on Saturday.
China appeared to be on the verge of assisting Russia in its conflict against Ukraine, according to Washington earlier this year.
However, while US officials remain leery of China’s long-standing backing for Russia in general, the military and economic help that they were concerned about has not materialized, at least for the time being.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said military cooperation between China and Russia has heightened security worries in the region in a separate speech on Saturday.
“Joint military activities between these two powerful military giants will definitely raise concerns among other nations,” he said.
China has neither criticized Russia’s attack or called it an invasion, but has called for a diplomatic settlement. Beijing and Moscow have grown closer in recent years, and the two sides inked a broad strategic alliance in February geared at combating US influence, with the promise of “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”