U.S. Defense Secretary says committed to stable, constructive relationship with China
From Idrees Ali
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday he was determined to cultivate a constructive relationship with China and work on common challenges as he set out his vision for relations with Beijing, which are at the lowest level in decades have decreased.
The United States has placed the fight against China at the center of its national security policy for years, and President Joe Biden's administration has called the rivalry with Beijing "the greatest geopolitical test" of this century.
While Austin's Singapore speech will touch upon the usual list of behaviors that Washington describes as destabilizing from Taiwan to the South China Sea, his comments about finding a stable relationship could provide an opportunity for the two countries to ease tensions.
"We will not shrink back when our interests are threatened. But we are not looking for a confrontation," said Austin in excerpts from his speech.
"I am committed to a constructive and stable relationship with China, including stronger crisis communication with the People's Liberation Army."
Austin has not been able to speak to a senior Chinese official despite repeated attempts since he took office as Secretary of Defense in January.
Despite the tension and heated rhetoric, US military officials have long tried to maintain communication with their Chinese counterparts in order to mitigate potential flares or deal with accidents.
A top Chinese diplomat took on a confrontational tone in rare high-level talks with the US on Monday, accusing it of creating an "imaginary enemy" to divert attention from domestic issues and suppress China.
Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the second-rate US diplomat, arrived in China's northern city of Tianjin for face-to-face meetings on Sunday.
"Great powers need to model transparency and communication," Austin said.
Austin's speech, postponed for a month because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore, is being watched closely by regional nations concerned about China's increasingly assertive behavior but heavily reliant on access to its large markets.
He will visit Vietnam and the Philippines later this week to highlight the importance of alliances.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
In this article:
American military officer and 28th Secretary of Defense
Former US Vice President, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate
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