SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The current friction in the Indo Pacific is alarming and “trending in the wrong direction”, but the U.S. presence was not an effort to contain or invite conflict with China, a senior U.S. admiral said on Thursday.
Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said an “AUKUS” partnership between Australia, Britain and the United States to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines was to boost its defence capability.
“As good partners, United States and the United Kingdom will go ahead and assist in the ability for Australia to defend themselves,” he said after giving a lecture in Singapore, answering a question from the audience.
“We are intending to move as fast as possible. And as safe as possible.”
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The United States under President Joe Biden has been shoring up alliances in the Asia-Pacific of late in an effort to counter China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and over the Taiwan Strait, as Beijing seeks to advance its territorial claims.
Aquilino said the United States, with its exercises and patrols in the region, was not seeking conflict or to contain China, and would not support Taiwan’s independence.
Referring to remarks by China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang earlier this month that “conflict and confrontation” would be inevitable without a change in Washington’s attitude, Aquilino said it was important he ensures that his partners and China know that U.S. was not looking for a fight.
“There’s a place for China in this world to adhere and follow the rules like all the rest of us do,” he said.
(Reporting by Xinghui Kok; Editing by Martin Petty)
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