US defense chief set to arrive July 29
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he would emphasize his country’s commitment to freedom of the seas when he visits Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, late this month.
At a press briefing in Washington on Wednesday, Austin said he would also “make clear” where the United States stands on “some unhelpful and unfounded claims by China in the South China Sea.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said Austin is expected to be in the Philippines on July 29 and 30 as part of a three-nation Southeast Asian tour, which includes Singapore and Vietnam.
“I’ll also continue to make the case for a more fair, open and inclusive regional order, and for our shared values to ensure that all countries get a fair shake,” he said.
“We don’t believe that any one country should be able to dictate the rules, or worse yet, throw them over the transom and, in this regard, I’ll emphasize our commitment to the freedom—to freedom of the seas. I’ll also make clear where we stand on some unhelpful and unfounded claims by China in the South China Sea,” Austin added.
“[O]n the importance of freedom of navigation of the seas and the skies, this is really important, not only to the United States of America but to all of our allies and partners in the region and around the world,” he said.
Austin said the United States would continue to work with its allies to ensure freedom of navigation and flight in accordance with international law.“[W]hat we have done and what we will continue to do is to work with our allies and partners to make sure that we can navigate, you know, the skies and the seas to the degree that we should have the right to, in accordance with international law. And so our emphasis will remain on that,” he stressed.
“I’ll be working closely with our partners about how we’re modernizing our capabilities and their own capabilities to work together to tackle some changing forms of aggression and coercion that we’re all seeing. And I’ll be talking with our friends about how we’ll work hand-in-hand to pursue our new vision of integrated deterrence,” added the US official.US Joint Chiefs Of Staff chair Gen. Mark Milley, at the same briefing, said China is “the pacing threat” for the United States.
“As we go forward, China is the pacing threat for us in uniform, the United States. And it’s been directed now by the secretary of defense, the president and the previous as well. So we are gearing our capabilities, our programs, our training, our skills, our activities, etc., militarily with China in mind. There’s no question about it,” Milley said.
He added that the United States will work very closely with its different allies and partners in the region, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia “to make sure that we have proper capability to deal with it, whatever comes to us in the future.” INQ
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