December 8, 2022

The United States and its allies trade barbs with China, but Ukraine dominates security meetings in Asia

The United States and its allies trade barbs with China, but Ukraine dominates security meetings in Asia

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The United States and its allies traded barbs with China at the main security meeting in Asia on Saturday, particularly over Taiwan, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine overshadowed the discussions.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Washington will do its part in managing tensions with China and preventing conflict even though Beijing is becoming 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 Fengyi met on Friday and confirmed that they wanted to better manage their relationship although there was no sign of any breakthrough in resolving differences. Read more

Austin said the United States will continue to stand by its allies, including Taiwan.

“This is especially important because the People’s Republic of China (People’s Republic of China) is adopting a more coercive and aggressive approach to its territorial claims,” ​​he said.

China claims that self-governing Taiwan is its own Taiwan and has vowed to take it by force if necessary.

Austin said there has been an “alarming” increase in the number of unsafe and unprofessional encounters between Chinese aircraft and ships with those in other countries.

Australia said a Chinese fighter jet dangerously intercepted one of its military surveillance planes in the South China Sea in May, and the Canadian military accused Chinese warplanes of harassing its patrol planes while monitoring North Korean sanctions evasion.

Taiwan has complained for years about the Chinese air force’s repeated missions in the Air Defense Identification Zone, larger areas of regional airspace that it monitors for threats. Austin said these incursions have escalated in recent months.

Lieutenant General Zhang Chenzong, a senior Chinese military officer, called Austin’s speech a “confrontation”.

“There have been many baseless accusations against China. We express our strong dissatisfaction and strong opposition to these false accusations,” Zhang, deputy chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Chinese Central Military Commission, told reporters.

“The United States is trying to form a small circle in the Asia-Pacific region by pulling some countries to pit against some other countries. What should we call other than confrontation?”

But with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky scheduled to speak to delegates later in the day in a virtual session, the spotlight was on Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee in Washington, US, May 3, 2022. Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is what happens when oppressors trample the bases that protect us all,” Austin said. “It’s a preview of a potential world of chaos and turmoil that none of us want to live in.”

closed meeting

Earlier this year, Washington said China appeared willing to help Russia in its war against Ukraine.

But since then, US officials have said that while they remain concerned about China’s longstanding support for Russia in general, the military and economic support they were concerned about has not materialized, at least for the time being.

Ng Eng Hen, the host defense minister of Singapore, said relations between China and Russia were discussed at a closed-door meeting of ministers on Saturday, and that several delegates asked Beijing to do more to rein in Moscow.

The Japanese defense minister, one of Washington’s closest allies in Asia, told the meeting that military cooperation between China and Russia had heightened security concerns in the region. Read more

“The joint military operations between these two powerful military powers will undoubtedly increase the anxiety among other countries,” Nobu Keshi said at the Singapore meeting.

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand also spoke out against China.

“China’s objections (to our planes) are deeply concerning and unprofessional, and we need to ensure that the safety and security of our pilots are not at risk, particularly when they are simply observing as required under UN mandated missions,” Anand told Reuters in an interview. Read more

New Zealand has expressed concern about 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 that it did not support an invasion of a sovereign country in violation of the UN Charter.

“China’s failure to do so should be of concern to us, especially given the investments they are making in military power,” he said at the meeting.

In a speech focused on the US commitment to the region, Austin said the US would maintain a presence in Asia but Washington understood the need to prevent conflict.

“We do not seek confrontation or conflict. We do not seek a new Cold War, an Asian NATO, or a region divided into hostile blocs,” he said.

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(Additional reporting by Idris Ali, Chen Lin, and Joe Brook.) Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by William Mallard

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