SINGAPORE — The head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, said Thursday that Washington is not seeking to contain China or seek conflict in the region, but will take steps to support the region against coercion and intimidation by regimes. authoritarian.
Speaking at a conference in Singapore, Aquilino said the era of globalization had become one of “renewed great power competition” where the security environment influences the economy, trade and investment.
“My concern is that this foundation of this rules-based international order… is under direct attack from authoritarian regimes,” he said, without naming any nation, though he pointed to China’s recent moves to “establish a foothold” in the Solomon Islands.
A security alliance between China and the Solomon Islands a year ago sent shudders across the South Pacific, with many worried it could trigger a full-scale military buildup.
Aquilino also referred to China’s protests over US ships and planes in the Taiwan Strait, where Beijing has renewed its threats against Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory to bring under its control by force if necessary.
While the US does not seek conflict or support Taiwan independence, it said the military will continue to “fly, sail and operate” in the region to defend the navigation rights and freedom of all nations.
“The revisionist powers seek to disrupt and displace the current system in ways that benefit themselves and at the expense of everyone else. They use coercion, intimidation to achieve their goals and justify their action under a ‘might equals right’ theory,” he said.
“They make illegal excessive land claims that are not based on anything other than revisionist history. They empower law enforcement entities to harass nations that operate legally within their own exclusive economic zones. They break formal commitments. They ignore international legal rulings. They avoid the requirements handed out under the UN Charter,” he said, referring to China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea and increasing Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zones.
Aquilino said that China has a role to play in the world if it adheres to the rules-based order, especially regarding North Korea.
In 2022 alone, Pyongyang launched 70 missiles, which Aquilino called the most provocative action in history. He noted that the previous Thursday, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan met at a summit in Tokyo.
Pyongyang’s actions have threatened South Korea and Japan and it has “developed the capabilities to threaten the United States as well,” he said.
“It is destabilizing, it is unpredictable, it continues, it is not slowing down. The PRC’s potential to help deter the DPRK from running these events would be helpful,” Aquilino added, using the official names of China and North Korea.