The US is to expand its military and economic relationships with partners in Asia to push back against China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday.
Blinken said that US President Joe Biden’s administration is committed to maintaining peace and prosperity in the region and would do that by boosting US alliances, forging new relationships and ensuring that the US military maintains “its competitive edge.”
“Threats are evolving. Our security approach has to evolve with them. To do that, we will lean on our greatest strength: our alliances and partnerships,” Blinken said in a speech in Indonesia, outlining the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific plans.
“We’ll adopt a strategy that more closely weaves together all our instruments of national power — diplomacy, military, intelligence — with those of our allies and partners,” he said.
That would include linking US and Asian defense industries, integrating supply chains and cooperating on technological innovation, he said.
Later, he signed a series of three agreements with Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi, including one that extends until 2026 an existing maritime cooperation pact that among other issues calls for enhanced joint US-Indonesian naval exercises.
“It’s about reinforcing our strengths, so we can keep the peace, as we have done in the region for decades,” he said.
Blinken insisted that the US is not trying to force countries to choose between the US and China, or seeking conflict with China.
However, he laid out a litany of complaints about “Beijing’s aggressive actions” from “Northeast Asia to Southeast Asia and from the Mekong River to the Pacific islands.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) told a daily briefing that Blinken’s latest comments showed that the US is contradicting itself by “playing up the so-called China threat on the one hand, while claiming that it has no intention to seek conflict with China on the other.”
Blinken is in Indonesia on the first leg of a week-long, three-nation tour of Southeast Asia that is also to take him to Malaysia and Thailand.
Countering China’s growing aggressiveness in the region — particularly against Taiwan, in the South China Sea and in Hong Kong — is prominent on his agenda.
“Countries across the region want this behavior to change,” he said. “We do, too.”
“We are determined to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” he said. “It is also why we have an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
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