US defense chief says China muscling neighbors, plundering resources in Pacific

Singapore (CNN)US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called out China on Saturday for a series of coercive, aggressive and dangerous actions that threaten stability around Asia and vowed the United States would stand by partners to resist any pressure.

“Indo-Pacific countries shouldn’t face political intimidation, economic coercion, or harassment by maritime militias,” Austin said in a keynote speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense conference.
“The PRC’s moves threaten to undermine security, and stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Austin said, using the acronym to refer to the country by its official name, the People’s Republic of China.
He listed a series of areas where he said China is muscling its neighbors, including sending large numbers of warplanes into the skies near Taiwan, dangerously intercepting the patrol planes of US allies, and illegal fishing operations that “plunder the region’s provisions.”

Taiwan tensions
Taiwan played a key role in Austin’s address, as it did during a bilateral meeting between Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Friday evening.
During that meeting, both sides accused the other of trying to change the decades-long status quo over the self-governed island of Taiwan.
Austin on Saturday denied any such action from Washington.
“We’re determined to uphold the status quo that has served this region so well for so long,” he said. Under the “One China” policy, the US acknowledges China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially recognized Beijing’s claim to the democratic island of 23 million.

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