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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, back row, in a group photo with Defense leaders of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
in conjunction with the 20th Shangri-La
Dialogue in Singapore. While at the security conference,
Secretary Austin met with
key leaders to advance U.S. defense partnerships across the
region “in support
of our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,
anchored in
ASEAN centrality,” per the statement by Mr. Austin.
(DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley, CC BY2.0).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III:  “We will not flinch in the face of China bullying or coercion. China has become increasingly aggressive with its moves against Taiwan, setting up a situation that could resemble Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Voice of America
3 June  2023

U.S. Secretary of Defense’s address at the Shangri-La Dialogue

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Saturday that dialogue between the United States and China is essential to avoiding miscalculations that could lead to conflict, adding he was deeply concerned by Beijing’s unwillingness to engage in crisis management between the two militaries.

Secretary of Defense Austin is welcomed to the Japanese Ministry of Defense by Minister Yasukazu Hamada, Tokyo, 1 June 2023. Per the DoD, “The visit comes as the U.S. and Japan take important strides to modernize Alliance capabilities, optimize U.S. force posture, and build links with like-minded partners following the historic U.S.-Japan “2+2” Ministerial meeting earlier this year.” (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley, CC BY2.0)

“We do not seek conflict or confrontation,” Austin said in his address at the Shangri La Dialogue, Asia’s top security summit, in Singapore. “But we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion.”

Austin’s remarks were likely aimed at China. China Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu had refused Austin’s requests to meet this week at the summit. However, the two did shake hands on the summit’s sidelines Friday. The Pentagon said the two defense officials did not have a “substantive exchange.”

“I am deeply concerned that the PRC has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries,” Austin said in his speech, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, left, led Chinese military delegation in their visit to the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Federation on 17 April 2023. (Photo by the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation,  Минобороны России. CC BY4.0)

There are several issues that the U.S. and China do not agree on, including territorial disputes regarding the South China Sea and an alleged spy balloon that was shot down by a U.S. fighter plane after the balloon floated across the United States.

Perhaps the most vexing is the issue of Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims as its own and that it wants to bring under its rule. China has become increasingly aggressive with its moves against Taiwan, setting up a situation that could resemble Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

That similarity was not lost on Austin, who said Saturday, “how dangerous our world would become if big countries could just invade their peaceful neighbors with impunity.” He said the United States is “determined to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and so are a number of countries around the world.”

China’s defense minister delivers his address to the summit Sunday.


Featured image (quote mark)/Oakus 53, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons