Washington: ‘China has been a challenge to US security in the past and even today. However, China is a pacing challenge, and it is my priority focus. Therefore, it is really important for the US to focus more on creating opportunities to better partner with its allies and partners in the strategically vital Indo-Pacific region,’ said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, underlining the importance of Indo-Pacific countries. At the same time, Defense Secretary Austin said the United States had set up a ‘task force’ to curb China’s military ambitions in the region.
China’s aggressive military activities have been repeatedly said to pose a challenge to the Indo-Pacific region’s security. For the very first time, the threat was openly discussed at a NATO meeting in Brussels two days ago. The developments in the South China Sea are attracting the attention of not only the countries in the region but also the outside world, said the Indian defence minister, highlighting China’s hegemonic actions at the ASEAN summit.
In the past few weeks, the heads of the Pentagon, the US defence headquarters, and Indo-Pacific Command, have offered to cooperate with India, Japan, South Korea and Australia to counter the challenge posed by China. While US military officials are taking a hard line on China, the Biden administration is being accused of pursuing soft policies against it. Speaking before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Defense Secretary Austin acknowledged that addressing China’s threat was always a priority.
‘To counter the threat from China, Secretary of State Blinken and I visited the US allies in the Indo-Pacific region for the first time,’ Austin said, referring to visits to US allies Japan and South Korea, and partner country India. Also, two days ago, Austin said he was in a conference with ASEAN nations and exchanging ideas about how the US could better work together for an independent and open Indo-Pacific region.
Austin also said that a permanent ‘naval task force’ would be set up in the Indo-Pacific region to curb China’s ambitious military movements. Setting up the task force was completed last week, the Secretary of Defense told a Senate committee. ‘It has thereby become increasingly important for the United States to focus on building a stronger friendship with its partnering and allied nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States will have to develop state-of-the-art military capabilities to counter this threat from China. To that end, the Pentagon must approve the proposed budget,’ Austin urged.
Meanwhile, reports suggest that the US Navy is forming an independent unit to counter China’s challenge. Nevertheless, the Pentagon has not confirmed the news.