The United States cannot completely trust China until Beijing starts playing by the rules. That was the general message that is issued by the secretary of Defense of the United States, Patrick Shanahan, in the main forum for the defense of Asia on Saturday morning in Singapore.
In statements to hundreds of delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Shanahan avoided calling China by its name but criticized ” some in our region “for using what he called a” toolkit of coercion ” in the Indo-Pacific, which includes the controversial South. China Sea.
The toolkit included island building, the deployment of advanced weapons systems in disputed areas, participation in the predatory economy, and the alleged theft of state-sponsored military and civilian technology-all the activities that the United States has previously accused China of undertaking.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea of 1.3 million square miles as its sovereign territory and aggressively affirms its participation, with President Xi Jinping saying he will never leave “any inch of territory.” Meanwhile, U.S. military officials have promised to continue enforcing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Shanahan said the Indo-Pacific region was the most important theater in the United States from a security perspective.
“We can’t … keep looking the other way as countries use friendly rhetoric to distract themselves from hostile acts,”
Peter Layton, a former Australian military officer, an analyst at the Griffith Institute in Asia said Shanahan’s speech was “a little disappointing”.
“Criticism of China continues, but it does not propose a strategy to address the expressed concerns or operationalize the current Indo-Pacific strategy as many expected,” he said.
But Meia Nouwens, a researcher at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, said Shanahan also did not alleviate the anxieties of her Asian allies.
“I think it is clear that the countries of the region will remain concerned about having to choose sides between the United States and China,” he said.
Later, Shanahan made direct reference to Beijing, saying that he had once been a partner with the United States. UU. In the prosperity of the region, but it would have to change the way it operated to become that positive partner again.
“Behavior that erodes the sovereignty of other nations and generates mistrust of China’s intentions must end,” Shanahan said. While answering questions from the room after his speech, he added: “We will not ignore Chinese behavior. In the past, people have tiptoed.”
The US Secretary of Defense said that Washington and Beijing had a number of confidence issues that needed to be addressed, including the 5G communications networks, a problem in which Washington has disagreed with China’s industry leader Huawei.
‘I don’t see a trade war’
On one front, at least, Shanahan minimized tensions between the United States and China.
“I don’t see a commercial war. I see that there are ongoing trade negotiations,” he said.
Shanahan also said that levels of trust between the US UU. And China could be improved by cooperating on issues where there should be ground, such as the imposition of sanctions on North Korea. Friday night, the acting chief of defense of the United States. UU. Met with his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, and gave him a “beautiful book” about the “transfer of oil from one vessel to another,” suggesting that the United States and China could jointly fight to smuggle of ship-to-ship from North Korea that surrounded the resolutions of the Security Council of the UN.
Shanahan also said he discussed 5G technology with Wei. “Huawei company is very close to the government. The integration of civil enterprises with the Armed Forces is too close. That’s too risky for the Department of Defense. We can’t trust those networks to be safe.”
At the end of his appearance at the defense conference on Saturday, Shanahan responded to a Major general of the People’s Liberation Army of China.
The Chinese general asked how Shanahan’s previous experience as an executive with Boeing could contribute to improving U.S.-China relations.
“My experience working at Boeing continues,” Shanahan said. “China was our biggest customer and our biggest competitor. You have to understand how to live in that duality. Competition means playing by the rules.”
Shanahan’s comments, however, are not the end of the Shangri-La debate.
On Sunday, Wei, the highest-ranking Chinese official to attend the forum in eight years, will take the stage in the main dance hall.