The Shangri-La Dialogue – the annual high mass of Asia-Pacific defense ministers – which was held from June 10 to 12 in Singapore, was an opportunity for the United States and the China to reaffirm their positions on the most burning issue: Taiwan. But also to display their differences on the Indo-Pacific, while seeking, despite everything, to maintain a strategic dialogue at the highest level.
As early as Friday, June 10, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, who were meeting for the first time, had an exchange that lasted an hour, or, apparently, thirty minutes more. provided that. According to a spokesperson for the Chinese minister, he told his counterpart that “If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will not hesitate to start a war, whatever the cost”.
If the official New China news agency insists that “The one-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations”it also indicates that the two ministers “agreed that the two armies must implement the important consensus reached by their heads of state, maintain high-level strategic communication and not turn differences into conflict and confrontation”.
In his June 11 intervention, Lloyd Austin reiterated Washington’s official position on Taiwan: “We do not support Taiwanese independence.he said. We strongly oppose any unilateral change to the status quo by any party. » A message addressed to Taiwanese leaders but also, of course, Chinese. Because, according to him, “if our policy has not changed, it seems that, unfortunately, this is not true for the People’s Republic of China”. “We are seeing a marked increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan,” he lamented.
The Indo-Pacific, “the heart of American grand strategy”
But General Austin mainly mentioned the Indo-Pacific, a term he used twenty-one times. The message is clear. Neither the war in Ukraine nor China will undermine Washington’s desire to consider this region as “the heart of American grand strategy”his ” center of gravity “. A region where “Over 300,000 US Army men and women are stationed. More than in any other region of the world”.
If he asserts “not looking for a new cold war, an Asian NATO, a region divided into hostile blocs”General Austin reaffirmed the commitment of the Americans in the region, with their allies, their partners, whom they find within the Aukus (the alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom), the Quad ( Australia, Japan, India) or Asean, these Southeast Asian countries recently invited for the first time to a summit with Joe Biden.
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