The head of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, said Thursday Washington is neither trying to contain China nor seeking conflict in the region, but will take measures to support the region against coercion and bullying by authoritarian regimes.
Speaking in Singapore, Aquilino said the era of globalization has evolved into “renewed great power competition” in which the security environment affects business, trade and investment.
“My concern is that this foundation of this rules-based international order…will be directly attacked by authoritarian regimes,” he said, without naming any nations, though he did mention China’s recent actions to “get a foothold” in the Solomon Islands.
A security alliance between China and the Solomon Islands a year ago sent shivers across the South Pacific, and many feared it could spark a large-scale military buildup.
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Aquilino also addressed China’s protests against US ships and planes in the Taiwan Strait, where Beijing has renewed its threats against Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory to be taken under its control by force if necessary.
While the US does not seek conflict or support Taiwan’s independence, he said the military will continue to “fly, sail and operate” in the region to uphold the navigational rights and freedom of all nations.
“Revisionist powers seek to disrupt and supplant the current system in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else. They use coercion and intimidation to achieve their ends, and they justify their actions with a might is right theory.” he said.
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“They make illegal excessive territorial claims based on nothing more than revisionist history. They empower law enforcement agencies to harass nations that operate legally in their own exclusive economic zones. You break formal commitments. They ignore international legal norms UN Charter,” he said, referring to aggressive Chinese actions in the South China Sea and increasing Chinese encroachments on Taiwanese air defense zones.
Aquilino said China has a role to play in the world in adhering to the rules-based order, particularly with regard to North Korea.
In 2022 alone, Pyongyang launched 70 rockets in what Aquilino called the most provocative action in history. He pointed out that North Korea fired an ICBM earlier Thursday before leaders of South Korea and Japan were due to meet at a summit in Tokyo.
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Pyongyang’s actions have threatened South Korea and Japan, and it has “developed the capabilities to threaten the United States as well,” he said.
“It’s destabilizing, it’s unpredictable, it’s going on, it’s not slowing down. The potential for the People’s Republic of China to help dissuade the DPRK from holding these events would be helpful,” Aquilino added, using the official names of China and North Korea.
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