US Defense Secretary Warns of China’s ‘Growing Coercion’ of Taiwan

The United States will maintain its capacity to resist any force that threatens the security of Taiwan, U.S. defense secretary Lloyd J. Austin said on Saturday, as he warned of the “growing coercion” from Beijing.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin said that the Chinese communist regime has become “more coercive and aggressive” in its territorial claims, citing Beijing’s illegal maritime activities in the disputed South China Sea.

“We’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of unsafe aerial intercepts and confrontations at sea by PLA [People’s Liberation Army] aircraft and vessels,” he said, citing an incident in February when a PLA Navy ship directed a laser at an Australian warplane.

But the stakes are “especially stark in the Taiwan Strait,” Austin said.

“We’ve witnessed a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan. And that includes PLA aircraft flying near Taiwan in record numbers in recent months, and nearly on a daily basis,” he stated.

Cross-strait tensions have been escalating in recent months, with China making its second-largest incursion into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone on May 30 with 30 PLA warplanes.

China claims the self-ruled island as its own and has vowed to conquer it by force if necessary.

Austin said that Washington remains committed to the “One China” policy, although it would still provide Taiwan with the capabilities necessary to maintain its defense, echoing President Joe Biden’s remarks in Tokyo last month.

“And it means maintaining our own capacity to resist any use of force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan,” Austin remarked.

He further noted that Beijing’s recent military maneuvers near Taiwan threaten to destabilize the Indo-Pacific region, while underscoring that sustaining peace and security across the Taiwan Strait is a global issue, not simply a U.S. interest.

“We do not seek confrontation or conflict. And we do not seek a new Cold War, an Asian NATO, or a region split into hostile blocs,” he said referring to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“We will defend our interests without flinching. But we’ll also work toward our vision for this region—one of expanding security, one of increased cooperation, and not one of growing division.”

Austin’s remarks came a day after his meeting with Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines at the Shangri-La Dialogue summit, during which he raised Washington’s concerns about the PLA’s “unsafe, aggressive, unprofessional behavior” in the Taiwan Strait.

During the meeting, Austin conveyed to Wei that Washington does not support Taiwan’s independence but would still provide defensive arms to Taiwan under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

“Secretary Austin reiterated the point he made when they spoke on the phone that we were watching the situation very carefully and strongly discouraged China from providing material support to Russia for its war in Ukraine,” the U.S. Defense Ministry said in a statement.

From The Epoch Times