The U.S. remains committed to a shared vision of freedom, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today.
Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin underscored the importance of partnerships in achieving a future for the region anchored in the adherence to international norms, respect for sovereignty and human rights and the free flow of commerce and ideas.
“This vision isn’t the vision or initiative of a single country,” he said. “It’s a common and compelling aspiration. It’s about building the basic conditions that let people live their lives without fear and pursue dreams without limit. And that matters to citizens across the region.”
Austin highlighted the progress the U.S. and its allies in the region have made in achieving this goal.
He noted Japan’s pledge to invest $75 billion in public and private investment in regional infrastructure and India’s completion of maritime exercise with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
He hailed the “bold steps” taken by Indonesia and Vietnam toward resolving their maritime-boundary dispute and lauded South Korea’s declaration that international norms are key to shared security and prosperity in its Indo-Pacific strategy.
“Around the region, countries are matching their words with their actions, Austin said. “And they’re insisting on resolving differences through dialogue and calling for even closer cooperation.”
The U.S., he said, is also “doubling down” on regional alliances and partnerships “at every stage of defense planning.”
“Our shared goals are clear: to deter aggression and to deepen the rules and norms that promote prosperity and prevent conflict,” he said. “So, we’re stepping up planning and coordination, and training with our friends from the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.”
Austin offered his remarks at the Shangri-La dialogue while on his seventh trip to the region as Secretary of Defense. The summit offered the opportunity for Austin to meet with key leaders throughout the region.
Before arriving in Singapore for the conference, Austin met with U.S. troops in Japan and met with Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada in Tokyo.
The two discussed the “impressive progress” the U.S. and Japan have made in strengthening their cooperation that will be critical to maintaining peace and deterring aggression in the region.
While in Singapore, Austin said his visit to the region comes at a critical for global peace and stability time as Russia continues its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“The Kremlin’s indefensible war of choice stands as the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the end of World War II,” he said. “And Russia’s shocking aggression has brought home to people everywhere how dangerous our world would be if big countries could just invade their peaceful neighbors with impunity.”
“Russia’s invasion shows us all the dangers of disorder and the cost of chaos,” he said.
Austin also noted rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific spurred by North Korean nuclear threats and the People’s Republic of China’s provocations in the region.
“The People’s Republic of China continues to conduct an alarming number of risky intercepts of U.S. and allied aircraft flying lawfully in international airspace,” he said. “And we’ve all just seen another troubling case of aggressive and unprofessional flying by the PRC.”
Austin pledged to support allies and partners in the region “as they defend themselves against coercion and bullying.”
“To be clear: we do not seek conflict or confrontation,” he said. “But we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion.”
He said conflict is not inevitable, and the U.S. remains committed to strengthening peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.
Austin urged continued dialogue between the two countries, despite China’s defense minister declining to meet during the summit in Singapore.
The two officials spoke briefly during a dinner to kick off the Shari-La Dialogue, though Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen Pat Ryder said the two leaders “did not have a substantive exchange.”
Austin said during his address that maintaining open lines of communication between the two nations is critical.
“I am deeply concerned that the PRC has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries,” Austin said. “But I hope that will change, and soon.”
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Great powers must be beacons of transparency and responsibility. And the United States is deeply committed to doing our part,” he said.