Home Asia US Defence Chief Refocuses Attention On China At Shangri-La Dialogue

US Defence Chief Refocuses Attention On China At Shangri-La Dialogue

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore June 1, 2024. REUTERS/Edgar Su

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin tried to refocus attention on China’s threat in the Indo-Pacific. He was speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue. The US defence secretary looked to alleviate concerns that conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza have distracted from America’s security commitments in Asia.

Austin meets his Chinese counterpart

Austin, who was speaking at the security summit in Singapore met his Chinese counterpart Dong Jun on Friday. This was a bid to cool tensions over issues from Taiwan to China’s activity in the South China Sea.

The defence secretary said in his speech that “despite these historic clashes in Europe and the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific has remained our priority theater of operations.” His speech looked to make the Biden administration’s legacy in the region clear.

“Let me be clear: The United States can be secure only if Asia is secure. That’s why the United States has long maintained our presence in this region.”

Austin also underscored the importance of alliances in the region. Taking a swipe at China, he said. “And … peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and not coercion or conflict. And certainly not through so-called punishment.”

The speech took aim at Beijing’s actions in the region, including the South China Sea.

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China warns US not to interfere in Taiwan

Defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian told reporters that Dong had warned Austin the US should not interfere in China’s affairs with Taiwan. China claims the island as its territory.

Some US officials say Beijing has become more emboldened in recent years. China recently launched what it described as “punishment” drills around Taiwan. It sent heavily armed warplanes and staged mock attacks after Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as Taiwan’s president.

About $8 billion in US funding is set aside for countering China in the Indo-Pacific as part of the supplemental funding bill passed by lawmakers.

China-Philippines tensions should not spiral out of control

Austin said that China-Philippines tensions were dangerous and should not spiral out of control. He reiterated that the US’s mutual defence treaty with Manila was iron-clad.

“America will continue to play a vital role in the Indo-Pacific, together with our friends across the region that we share and care so much about.”

With inputs from Reuters