U.S. Defense Secretary Reaffirms Focus on China Amid Global Conflicts, Emphasizes Indo-Pacific Security

Austin reaffirmed the importance of alliances and peaceful dispute resolution, indirectly criticizing China's aggressive tactics.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the importance of focusing on China’s threat in the Asia-Pacific, seeking to reassure that conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza have not distracted from America’s commitments in the region.

Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, Austin stressed, “Despite these historic clashes in Europe and the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific has remained our priority theatre of operations.”

He underscored that the U.S. can only be secure if Asia is secure, highlighting the longstanding American presence in the region.

Austin’s speech came just before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Singapore to gather support for a peace summit in Switzerland.

Zelenskiy planned meetings with various leaders, including Singapore’s President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, and Austin.

During the conference, Austin met with his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun, to address issues like Taiwan and China’s activities in the South China Sea.

Austin reaffirmed the importance of alliances and peaceful dispute resolution, indirectly criticizing China’s aggressive tactics.

Chinese Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng responded, accusing the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy of provoking confrontation and undermining regional stability.

Indonesia’s president-elect, Prabowo Subianto, proposed sending peacekeeping troops to Gaza if needed, supporting U.S. President Joe Biden’s ceasefire initiative.

Prabowo stated, “We are prepared to contribute significant peacekeeping forces to maintain and monitor this prospective ceasefire.”

The U.S. continues to provide substantial military aid to Ukraine and Israel, with Congress appropriating billions more in recent months.

Additionally, about $8 billion is allocated for countering China in the Indo-Pacific.

South Korean defense minister Shin Won-sik refrained from committing to changing laws that prohibit arms exports to conflict nations, though South Korea has indirectly supported Ukraine through deals with the U.S. and Poland.

Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr condemned China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, with Austin reaffirming the mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines.

“America will continue to play a vital role in the Indo-Pacific,” Austin stated, despite Chinese criticisms that U.S. alliances contribute to regional instability.

Jing commented, “We need to resolve disagreements through dialogue and consultation rather than inviting wolves into our house and playing with fire.”