US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Saturday said that recent extensive Chinese military operations near Taiwan resembled “rehearsals,” while reaffirming Washington’s support for Taipei.
He said the US remained committed to supporting “Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.”
In a speech devoted largely to an array of challenges posed by an increasingly confident China, he underlined Washington’s “real differences” with Beijing.
Photo: Office of the Secretary of Defense via AP
Austin was speaking at a national defense forum at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
In the past few months, the Chinese military has mounted a series of sea and air operations near Taiwan.
“It looks a lot like them exploring their true capabilities,” Austin said. “It looks a lot like rehearsals.”
China is the only power capable of using its “economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” Austin said.
He said that the world’s two largest economic powers have “real differences both over interests and values, but the way that you manage them counts.”
Chinese leaders have been increasingly vocal about their “dissatisfaction with the prevailing order — and about their aim of displacing America from its global leadership role,” he added.
However, Austin said: “We seek neither confrontation nor conflict... We’re not seeking a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs.”
In the face of the Chinese challenge, the US would be deepening its ties with friendly countries in the region, including through joint exercises, he said.
“We remain steadfast to our one China policy,” Austin said, but also to “our commitments of the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself, while also maintaining our capacity to resist any resort to force that would jeopardize the security of the people of Taiwan.”
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