US Secretary of Defense James Mattis yesterday said the US remains committed to its Asia-Pacific allies, as he headed to the region’s premier defense and security forum.
Mattis said that in a speech today to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore he would talk about the “international order” needed for a peaceful Asia, a reference to countering North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
“At the Shangri-La dialogue I will emphasize [that] the United States stands with our Asia-Pacific allies and partners,” Mattis told reporters on his way to the regional security forum.
“The [US] Department of Defense is focused on strengthening alliances, empowering countries to be able to sustain their own security and strengthening US military capabilities to deter war,” Mattis said.
He is expected to meet with his counterparts from a number of countries, including South Korea, Japan and Australia.
China’s delegation is to be led by a retired major general from the Chinese Academy of Military Science, according to the forum’s program.
US President Donald Trump has actively courted Chinese support on North Korea, raising concerns among Southeast Asian allies in the buildup to the dialogue that Washington might allow China a freer rein elsewhere in the region.
The US focus on North Korea has been sharpened by dozens of North Korean missile launches — the most recent of which was on Monday — and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year. Pyongyang has vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the continental US.
Japan’s navy and air force on Thursday began a three-day military exercise with two US aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan, adding pressure on North Korea to halt an accelerating ballistic missile program.
Mattis said he would talk about the need for countries to uphold international law, an apparent reference to Beijing’s construction activities on disputed islets and reefs in the South China Sea.
China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Last week, a US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of an artificial island China has built on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since Trump took office.
The Trump administration has completed a broad review of US options aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, and leans more toward new sanctions and increased cooperation with Beijing.
Some Asian officials have said worries about Trump’s direction have been fueled by his unpredictable personal approach to policymaking and emphasis on his chemistry with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
Since meeting Xi in April, Trump has praised him for efforts to restrain North Korea.
“It is going to take time for the actions that China is taking to have affect in terms of North Korea,” US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey said.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses