China’s growing assertiveness in Asia is pushing other countries to strike new partnerships with the US, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official said, rejecting Beijing’s claim that the US push to deepen ties is destabilizing the region.
(Bloomberg) — China’s growing assertiveness in Asia is pushing other countries to strike new partnerships with the US, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official said, rejecting Beijing’s claim that the US push to deepen ties is destabilizing the region.
Chinese actions “have only strengthened a desire from countries in the region and beyond the region to make sure they can secure their interests,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in an interview. “We think that is helpful to deterrence, but also to creating stability in the region.”
Hicks cited a new base-sharing agreement with the Philippines, enhanced defense cooperation with South Korea and Japan and the AUKUS alliance with the UK and Australia as examples of the US push.
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“We know the Chinese are concerned about that,” she said, referring to US efforts to strengthen deterrence in Asia. Meanwhile, Beijing is “putting massive investments into their military, and they’re undertaking a whole range of actions that demonstrate a willingness to use military force,” she said.
That outreach is part of a broader Biden administration effort both to re-engage with China diplomatically and also push back against what the US sees as China’s more aggressive actions in Asia. Beijing accuses the US of destabilizing the region with these moves, and has critiqued the AUKUS pact for fueling an arms race and undermining peace and security. China also frequently criticizes the US for selling defense equipment to Taiwan.
Hicks said she wants to speed up weapons shipments to Taiwan, the self-governing island that’s claimed by China. She said the Pentagon was trying to ensure Taiwan could get planned weapons shipments “as quickly as possible,” and was working with American defense contractors to fix supply chain hiccups partly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Hicks also pushed back against criticism from some Republicans that the Biden administration is too focused on Ukraine’s defense at the expense of Taiwan. She said the rise in demand for weapons generated by the war in Ukraine has helped jump-start the US defense industry.
“Everything we are doing to secure assistance to Ukraine is helping to energize the US industrial base in ways that help us provision better for Taiwan, ourselves and other potential partners,” she said.
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