Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Senior US diplomat pitches arms sales in SE Asia


Members of the media photograph and record an aerial display on Sunday during a media preview day at the Singapore Air Show. The show runs until Sunday.

Photo: Bloomberg

The top US diplomat overseeing arms sales yesterday said she would promote US weaponry at the largest air show in Asia, where China’s military footprint and political influence are surging.

A large US delegation at the Singapore Air Show is doing “everything we can” to encourage Southeast Asian governments to purchase US-made arms such as the F-35 jet, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow told reporters in a telephone briefing.

She repeatedly sought to dispel the notion that US influence was in retreat.

The administration of US President Donald Trump in December last year outlined a national security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise. The strategy calls for reinforcing the US’ presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup while vying for influence.

Washington has been seeking to woo nations such as Vietnam with arms sales and transfers at a time when China has bolstered its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Kaidanow said the transfer last year of a coast guard cutter to Vietnam, which often contests China’s maritime claims, was an “incredible positive.”

“They will be able to use our equipment for maritime domain awareness, for maritime security... That’s important for them,” said Kaidanow, who visited Hanoi last week shortly after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, on a visit to Vietnam, announced plans to send an aircraft carrier to the nation in a show of solidarity.

“Our hope is they will consider American companies [not only] in defense, but in other sectors as well,” Kaidanow said.

Kaidanow said she would meet with officials from Japan, Canada and several Southeast Asian nations to discuss arms purchases at the trade show in the coming days and added that Southeast Asian countries should consider purchasing US arms “not just as a matter of security, but also regional balance.”

US warships are to maintain their freedom-of-navigation operations in South China Sea waters claimed by China, she said, adding: “We will absolutely continue the pace.”

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