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US-China detente tested by Asia Pacific domination bid

  • Austin praises “new era of security” in Asia Pacific
  • China rebukes, accuses US of destabilizing the region
  • Tensions persist over South China Sea and Taiwan

Lloyd Austin, the United States’ defence minister, has lauded a “new era of security” in the Asia Pacific, emphasizing that the region remains a significant strategic priority for the United States. A senior Chinese military official swiftly rebuked this statement.

Austin issued the statement one Saturday following a critical meeting in Singapore with his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun. During the meeting, the two leaders resolved to reestablish military-to-military communications to alleviate the increasing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

China praised the agreement to repair the disintegrating security ties and the face-to-face talks that took place on Friday as “stabilizing.” However, a variety of issues, including competition and tensions over the South China Sea and Taiwan, are still testing the resolve of both nations.

Austin stated on Saturday that the region has experienced a “new convergence” in the past three years, characterized by a shared comprehension of “the power of partnership” in nearly all security aspects.

Austin stated at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that this new convergence is establishing a more resilient, capable, and robust network of partnerships in the region, delineating a new era of security.

Nevertheless, Austin stated that it was not “about imposing one country’s will” or “bullying or coercion,” in an apparent jab at China, which has heightened its sabre-rattling over self-ruled Taiwan and has grown more confident in asserting its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Austin stated, “This new convergence is about uniting rather than dividing.” “It pertains to the autonomy of sovereign states.”

Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng of China accused the United States of attempting to establish “an Asia Pacific version of NATO” in response to Austin. He also called the superpower the “greatest challenge to regional peace and stability.”

Jing stated that the US strategy was designed to “undermine stability, provoke confrontation, and create division.

“It is in direct opposition to the shared aspirations of regional countries for peace, development, and win-win cooperation, as well as the selfish geopolitical interests of the United States,” stated Jing, the deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission.

Austin’s statement “left very little doubt” that the United States was attempting to project its influence in the region.

“That appears to trigger a response from the Chinese side,” he stated, emphasizing that the “acrimony has spilt out in the open.”

He stated, “The message we are receiving is that the United States is deeply committed to the Indo-Pacific region and is not planning to retreat.”

Inviting coyotes

Austin has been endeavouring to redirect attention to China’s activities in the Asia Pacific to address concerns that the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine have diverted attention from his country’s security obligations.

“Despite the historical conflicts in the Middle East and Europe, the Indo-Pacific region has continued to be our primary theatre of operations,” Austin emphasized.

Austin stated, “Asia must be secure for the United States to be secure.” “That is why the United States has consistently maintained a presence in this region.”

Austin also emphasized the significance of alliances in the region, emphasizing the necessity of “peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and not coercion or conflict.”

According to Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the defence ministry, Dong cautioned Austin during their meeting on Friday that the United States should refrain from meddling in China’s relations with Taiwan. China claims the democratically governed island as its own territory.

Some US officials have been warning that Beijing has become more confident in recent years, and it has recently initiated what it has referred to as “punishment” exercises around Taiwan.

China is also incensed by the United States’ consistent deployment of fighter aircraft and warships in the South China Sea and its strengthening of regional defence ties, particularly with the Philippines.

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Austin reiterated on Saturday that the United States’ dedication to the Philippines’ defense under their mutual defense treaty was “ironclad.” This is despite the escalating tensions between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, which have heightened concerns about the potential for a broader conflict.

Austin described Chinese activities in disputed waters with the Philippines as “dangerous harassment”. He stated that America will continue to play a vital role in the Indo-Pacific in collaboration with our allies across the region that we share and care about.

Jing, the Chinese general, stated that these alliances only exacerbated the region’s instability.

It is only natural for neighbours to argue occasionally; however, we must resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation rather than inviting wolves into our homes and playing with fire,” he stated.

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