The defense ministers of the United States, Australia and Japan pledged Saturday in Honolulu to strengthen their military cooperation in the face of China’s regional ambitions, which seeks to “change the status quo by force” in the region.
“We are very concerned about the increasingly aggressive and intimidating behavior of China in the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere in the region,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said while receiving his Australian and Japanese counterparts at the US military headquarters in the region.
For his part, Australian Minister Richard Marles said, “Our interests depend on respect for the international system, but we see that this system is being challenged in the region (…) by China, which seeks to shape the world around it as we have not seen it before.”
Japan’s Yasukazu Hamada denounced “unilateral changes to the status quo by China by using force in the South and East China Seas” as well as North Korea’s recent missile launches, saying he wanted to “discuss what we can do (… ) to enhance our deterrence and response capabilities in Region”.
In recent days, the United States has launched a diplomatic campaign in all directions to try to counter China’s influence in this strategic region.
On Thursday, it announced a new $810 million fund to help the South Pacific islands, where it will boost its diplomatic presence.
Last week, US Vice President Kamala Harris visited Japan and South Korea, where she reiterated Washington’s determination to act “without fear or hesitation” across Asia, including in the Taiwan Strait.
Harris also went to Seoul and visited the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, during a visit aimed at confirming Washington’s “steadfast” commitment to defending South Korea against its North neighbor.
Austin also held a bilateral meeting with his Australian counterpart that focused on the AUKUS agreement reached in 2021 between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to supply Canberra to US or British nuclear-powered submarines.
The two men then headed to Pearl Harbor Bay, where they inspected the USS Mississippi Virginia-class attack submarine, the latest generation of the US Navy’s submarines.
Recalling that in the first half of 2023 the Australian government will announce the model of submarines it intends to purchase after the abrupt termination of a huge contract with France, the Australian minister indicated that the delivery schedule will be an important factor in Canberra’s decision. “It will not only be about the question of which submarine we will choose, but also whether it will be fast and whether there will be a gap in our capabilities,” he said during a press conference, recalling that Australia’s fleet of submarines is obsolete.
“It is very important, given the strategic situation we are facing, that there is an improvement in the capabilities of submarines in Australia,” he added.
And nuclear-powered submarines could allow Australia to operate in a more stealthy and more deterrent manner against China. Supplier selection will have significant economic impact and strategic implications.
SOURCE: trend detail