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Sunday, July 14, 2024

China’s coercive actions ‘dangerous’ to PH – Austin

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United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said China’s coercive actions in the Asia-Pacific is dangerous for the region, including the Philippines.

“The harassment that the Philippines has faced is dangerous, plain and simple,” he told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday.

Underscoring the US commitment to the region, Austin said the Asia-Pacific remained Washington’s “priority theater of operations,” noting “the United States can be secure only if Asia is.”

“We are all in and we’re not going anywhere,” he said.

President Ferdinand Marcos said Friday that the “stabilizing presence of the United States is crucial to regional peace.”

He, however, emphasized that he does not work for any powerful countries, including the United States and China.

“I don’t work for Beijing, I don’t work for Washington, I don’t work for Moscow. I work for Manila. I work for the Philippines and that’s what I need to promote,” the President said.

The Philippines, a treaty ally of the United States, is a key focus of Washington’s efforts to build an arc of alliances across the region.

“We all share an interest in ensuring that the South China Sea remains free and open,” he said, underscoring the importance of maintaining dialogue between militaries.

“There’s no substitute for open lines of communication to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations.”

Austin on Friday met with his Chinese counterpart Dong Jun on the sidelines of the gathering, expressing concern about China’s “provocative” military activities near Taiwan.

It was the first in-person talks between the two countries’ defense chiefs since November 2022.

Given its position in the South China Sea and proximity to self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, Philippine support would be crucial for the United States in the event of any conflict.

The Philippines has increased to nine the number of military bases open to US troops under a 2014 agreement, including two in the country’s far north less than 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Taiwan.

Austin insisted Saturday that Washington’s commitment to defend Manila under their mutual defence treaty remained “ironclad” as repeated confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the South China Sea have stoked fears of a wider conflict.

Austin hailed a “new era of security” in the Asia-Pacific region as Washington strengthens its network of alliances aimed at countering China’s growing military might and influence.

From Japan to Australia, the United States has been deepening defense ties across the region, ramping up joint military exercises and regularly deploying warships and fighter jets in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea – infuriating Beijing.

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum after Austin’s speech, Chinese Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng accused the United States of seeking to build an Asia-Pacific version of NATO to maintain its hegemony in the region.

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