US ‘firmly committed’ to the one-China policy: Austin
Singapore, Jun 11 (EFE).- The United States’ defense secretary said Saturday that Washington remains “firmly committed” to the one-China policy and that it does not support the independence of Taiwan, but warned of Beijing’s “dangerous” moves in the region.
Lloyd Austin was speaking on US defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the region’s most important annual defense forum.
His comments come the day after he met on the sidelines of the summit with his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who defended during the meeting that Beijing would “crush” any attempt at independence by Taiwan, which it considers its territory.
“We remain firmly committed to our long-standing one-China policy,” Austin said.
“We categorically oppose any unilateral changes of the status quo [in Taiwan] and we don’t support independence,” he emphasized, calling the activities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the area “dangerous.”
“Our policy has not changed, but unfortunately that does not seem to be true by the PRC,” Austin said, adding that “the PRC moves threaten to undermine prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”
Austin’s words about the US commitment to the one-China policy take on particular relevance after US president Joe Biden stated in May that his country would defend Taiwan from being attacked by Beijing.
Biden’s firmness called into question the “strategic ambiguity” with which the US, Taiwan’s main arms supplier, deals with the delicate issue.
Asked about it in a round of questions after his speech, Austin lowered his tone Saturday and referred to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which commits Washington to the defense of the island, but does not make it clear whether the power would intervene in the case of a Chinese attack.
China claims sovereignty over the island and considers Taiwan a rebel province, which it has not ruled out use of force to achieve reunification with.
The sovereignty of the self-governed island is one of the main stumbling blocks in relations between China and the US, whose defense chiefs pledged in their first face-to-face meeting yesterday in Singapore to increase communication channels.
“We do not seek confrontation and conflict, and we don’t seek a new Cold War or an Asian NATO, or a region split into blocks, but we will work towards our vision – one of expanding security in the Indo-Pacific,” Austin added on Saturday.
The secretary of defense also made numerous references to the war in Ukraine to illustrate the breakdown of international order hours before the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaks virtually at the forum. EFE