June 3, 2023 -SINGAPORE (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin vowed Saturday that Washington would not stand for any “coercion and bullying” of its allies and partners by China, while assuring Beijing that the United States remains committed to maintaining the status quo on Taiwan and would prefer dialogue over conflict.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum bringing together top defense officials, diplomats and leaders in Singapore, Austin lobbied for support for Washington’s vision of a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights” as the best course to counter increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
The U.S. has been expanding its own activities around the Indo-Pacific to counter sweeping territorial claims from China, including regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.
“We are committed to ensuring that every country can fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said at the forum hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank. “And every country, large or small, must remain free to conduct lawful maritime activities.”