US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that Taiwan’s recent sweeping Chinese military operation was a “rehearsal” and reaffirmed Washington’s strong support for Taipei.
President Joe Biden’s Pentagon chief said the United States is committed to supporting “Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.”
In a speech devoted largely to the challenges posed by an increasingly confident China, he outlined Washington’s “real differences” with Beijing.
Austin was speaking at a national defense forum at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
In recent months, the Chinese military has launched an increasingly aggressive series of maritime and air military operations near Taiwan, which it claims as its own.
“It seems they are discovering their true potential,” Austin said. “It looks like a lot of rehearsal.”
Some analysts have suggested that Beijing may test Biden during his first year in office.
Austin said China is the only power now capable of using its “economic, diplomatic, military and technological might to present a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”
The world’s two biggest economic powers, he continued, “have real differences of opinion on both interests and values. But what matters is the way you manage them.”
He said Chinese leaders have been vocal about their “dissatisfaction with the current order – and their aim to displace the US from its global leadership role.”
But, Austin said: “We want neither confrontation nor conflict… We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid factions.”
Facing the Chinese challenge, the retired four-star army general said, the US will deepen its ties with friendly countries in the region through joint exercises.
“We remain firm in our one-China policy,” Austin said, but “to our commitments to the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself, as well as to oppose any measure of force.” To uphold our ability that would endanger the security of the “Taiwanese people.”
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