SINGAPORE, June 11 (Reuters) – The United States and its allies exchanged pikes with China on Saturday at the first Asian security meeting, particularly in Taiwan, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has eclipsed the discussions.
Addressing the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington would do its part to manage tensions with China and prevent conflict, even as Beijing becomes increasingly aggressive in the region.
The world’s two largest economies have clashed in recent months over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.
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Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met on Friday and reiterated they want to manage their relationship better despite there being no signs of a breakthrough in resolving the differences. Read more
Austin said the United States would continue to support its allies, including Taiwan.
“This is particularly important as the PRC (People’s Republic of China) takes a more coercive and aggressive approach to its territorial claims,” he said.
China claims Taiwan as its own and has pledged to take it by force if necessary.
Austin said there had been an “alarming” increase in the number of unsafe and unprofessional encounters between Chinese planes and ships with those of other countries.
Australia said a Chinese fighter jet dangerously intercepted one of its military surveillance planes in the South China Sea region in May, and the Canadian military accused the Chinese fighter jets of harassing its patrol planes as they monitored North Korean sanctions evasions.
Taiwan has complained for years about repeated missions by the Chinese air force in its air defense identification zone, an area larger than the territorial airspace from which it monitors threats. Austin said those incursions have increased in recent months.
Lt. Gen. Zhang Zhenzhong, a senior Chinese military officer, called Austin’s speech a “confrontation.”
“There have been many unfounded accusations against China. We have expressed our deep dissatisfaction with and firm opposition to these false accusations,” Zhang, vice chief of the Joint Military Commission Staff Department, told reporters. central China.
“The United States is trying to form a small circle in the Asia-Pacific region by enlisting in certain countries to incite against other countries. What should we call it other than confrontation?
But with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy due to address delegates later in the day in a virtual session, the spotlight was firmly on Russia’s invasion of his neighbour.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is what happens when the oppressors trample on the rules that protect us all,” Austin said. “It’s a glimpse into a possible world of chaos and turmoil that none of us would want to live in.”
Earlier this year, Washington said China appeared ready to help Russia in its war against Ukraine.
But since then, US officials have said that while they remain suspicious of China’s longstanding support for Russia in general, the military and economic support they have worried about has not materialized, at least for the moment.
Ng Eng Hen, defense minister of host country Singapore, said China-Russia ties were discussed at a closed-door meeting of ministers on Saturday, and several delegates called on Beijing to make more to contain Moscow.
The defense minister of Japan, one of Washington’s closest allies in Asia, told the meeting that military cooperation between China and Russia has aggravated security problems in the region. Read more
“Joint military operations between these two strong military powers will undoubtedly increase the concern of other countries,” Nobuo Kishi said at the Singapore meeting.
Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand has also spoken out against China.
“The Chinese interceptions of our (planes) are very concerning and unprofessional and we must ensure that the safety and security of our pilots are not at risk, especially when they are simply surveilling as required by the missions. sanctioned by the UN,” Anand said. told Reuters in an interview. Read more
New Zealand has expressed concern over Chinese attempts to gain influence in the Pacific islands. Read more
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said it was reasonable to expect China to make clear it did not support invading a sovereign country in violation of the UN Charter .
“The fact that China hasn’t done that should worry us, especially given the investments it is making in military power,” he told the meeting.
In a speech focusing on US engagement in the region, Austin said the United States would maintain its presence in Asia, but that Washington understood the need to prevent conflict.
“We are not looking for confrontation or conflict. And we are not looking for a new Cold War, an Asian NATO or a region divided into hostile blocs,” he said.
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Reporting by Idrees Ali, Chen Lin and Joe Brock; Written by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by William Mallard
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