China’s military activity around Taiwan threatens the region (US Defense Secy)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underscored U.S. support for Taiwan on Saturday, suggesting at the inaugural Asian Defense Forum that recent Chinese military activity around the self-governing island threatens to change the status quo.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin noted a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan, including almost daily military flights near the island by the People’s Republic of China.

Our policy has not changed, but unfortunately that does not seem to be true for the PRC, he said.

Austin said Washington remains committed to the one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.

Taiwan and China separated in a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory and has not ruled out using military force to take it.

China has intensified its military provocations against democratic Taiwan in recent years, aimed at intimidating it into accepting Beijing’s demands to unite with the communist mainland.

We remain focused on maintaining peace, stability and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Austin said in his speech. But the PRC’s moves threaten to undermine security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

He drew a parallel with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that the indefensible aggression against a peaceful neighbor galvanized the world and… reminded us all of the dangers of undermining an international order rooted in rules and the respect.

Austin said the rules-based international order is just as important in the Indo-Pacific as it is in Europe.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is what happens when oppressors trample on the rules that protect us all, he said. This is what happens when great powers decide that their imperial appetites matter more than the rights of their peaceful neighbors. And it’s a glimpse into a possible world of chaos and turmoil that none of us would want to live in.

Austin met with Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the conference on Friday for talks that featured Taiwan prominently, according to a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide details of the private meeting.

Austin made it clear at the meeting that while the United States did not support Taiwanese independence, it was also very concerned about China’s recent behavior and suggested that Beijing might attempt to change the status quo.

Wei, meanwhile, complained in Austin about new US arms sales to Taiwan announced this week, saying they seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests, according to a CCTV report handled by the Chinese state after the meeting.

China firmly opposes and condemns it, and the Chinese government and military will resolutely crush any plot for Taiwan independence and resolutely safeguard the reunification of the motherland, Wei reportedly told Austin.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian quoted Wei as saying China would respond to any move toward formal Taiwan independence by smashing it even at any cost, including war.

In his speech, Austin said the United States strongly supports the principle that cross-strait disputes should be resolved through peaceful means, but it will also continue to uphold its commitments to Taiwan.

That includes helping Taiwan maintain sufficient self-defense capability, he said.

And that means maintaining our own ability to resist any use of force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which governed US relations with the island, does not require the US to intervene militarily if China invades, but makes it US policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to to defend themselves and to prevent any unilateral change of status. by Beijing.

Austin underscored the power of partnerships and said the United States’ unprecedented network of alliances in the region has only deepened, noting recent efforts undertaken with the Association of South Asian Nations Southeast, or ASEAN; the growing importance of the Quad Group of the United States, India, Japan and Australia; and the trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom, known as AUKUS.

He dismissed Chinese claims that the United States intended to create an Asian NATO with its Indo-Pacific outreach.

Let’s be clear, 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.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles told the forum that AUKUS, under which Australia will buy nuclear-powered submarines from the United States with help from Britain, was a relationship of technology sharing, not across arrangements as you would describe NATO.

The Australian abruptly pulled out of a deal with France for submarines to sign the AUKUS deal, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Saturday he had agreed to pay Paris 555 million euros ($584 million) in compensation.

New French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu has hinted his country is ready to drop the case, saying the alliance with Australia is long, recalling the sacrifice of young Australians who came to die on French soil during the World War One.

There are ups and downs in all relations between countries, but when there was real drama, Australia was there, he says.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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