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US defence chief warns China against risky behaviour in Indo-Pacific

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday criticised China for conducting dangerous aerial intercepts over the South China Sea and warned that Washington wouldn’t be deterred by harmful behaviour within the Indo-Pacific area.

China was conducting “an alarming variety of dangerous intercepts of US and allied plane flying lawfully in worldwide airspace”, Austin stated on the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

His remarks got here days after the Pentagon launched a video displaying a Chinese language fighter jet flying dangerously close to a US spy airplane.

“We don’t search battle or confrontation, however we is not going to flinch within the face of bullying or coercion,” Austin stated.

The annual Asia safety discussion board hosted by the Worldwide Institute for Strategic Research think-tank has ceaselessly served as one of many few venues for US defence secretaries to fulfill their Chinese language counterparts. Nevertheless China this yr refused an invite from Austin for a gathering as a result of the US maintains sanctions on Chinese language defence minister Li Shangfu.

On Friday, Austin attended a dinner the place Li was current. The 2 males shook arms of their first interplay since Li, who’s talking on the discussion board on Sunday, turned defence minister in March.

In a speech that pressured the US dedication to allies within the area, Austin not directly referred to as on China to have interaction with the Pentagon.

“For accountable defence leaders, the suitable time to speak is any time, the suitable time to speak is each time, and the suitable time to speak is now. Dialogue just isn’t a reward. It’s a necessity,” stated Austin.

Requested if the Pentagon had made any progress in attempting to carry nuclear arms management talks with China, Austin responded: “You bought to speak to them first, in order quickly as they reply the cellphone, possibly we’ll [talk].”

His feedback come because the US tries to kick-start top-level engagements with Chinese language officers in an effort to stabilise relations. China has refused to provide a inexperienced mild to a go to from secretary of state Antony Blinken, who cancelled a visit to Beijing in February over an alleged Chinese language spy balloon.

However the Monetary Instances reported on Friday that CIA director Invoice Burns made a secret journey to Beijing in Might and met Chinese language intelligence officers. Two individuals accustomed to the journey stated China invited Burns to go to.

In his speech, Austin stated Washington and its allies had made “great progress” in the direction of making certain peace and stability within the Indo-Pacific in what he intimated was a response to China.

“An increasing number of, the international locations of the Indo-Pacific have come collectively round a compelling imaginative and prescient of the long run,” Austin stated. “It’s a imaginative and prescient of a area wherein all international locations are free to thrive on their very own phrases — with out coercion, intimidation, or bullying.” 

In one other indirect reference to China amid issues about doable navy motion in opposition to Taiwan, Austin stated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “introduced dwelling to individuals in all places how harmful our world would change into if massive international locations might simply invade their peaceable neighbours with impunity”.

He stated the US was “doubling down” on its alliances and “stepping up planning, co-ordination and coaching with our pals from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean”.

Requested by the Monetary Instances if the US was making progress creating joint operational warfare plans with allies, notably Japan and Australia, for a Taiwan contingency, Austin declined to touch upon specifics.

However he stated it was vital to extend interoperability between militaries and that whereas the Pentagon had carried out quite a bit, the progress to date was “not at all the place any of us wish to be finally”.