U.S. official opposes unilateral changes in cross-Strait status quo

07/28/2021 05:41 PM
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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo courtesy of the International Institute for Strategic Studies
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo courtesy of the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Singapore, July 27 (CNA) The United States' secretary of defense has reaffirmed Washington's commitment to help Taiwan defend itself against a potential Chinese invasion and its opposition to a "unilateral change" to the cross-Taiwan Strait status quo.

"No one wants to see a unilateral change to the status quo with regard to Taiwan," said Lloyd Austin following a speech in Singapore in response to a question on whether the U.S. is concerned about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Saying he would not offer any predictions or intelligence assessments, Austin instead reiterated the U.S.' commitment to help Taiwan defend itself.

"We will stay focused on helping Taiwan to have the capabilities to defend itself going forward," he said.

In his speech at the 40th International Institute for Strategic Studies Fullerton Lecture, the U.S. defense chief said China's claims in the South China Sea and actions in the Indo-Pacific region threatened the sovereignty of nations in the region.

That included "destabilizing military activity and other forms of coercion against the people of Taiwan."

But Austin also noted that the U.S. did not seek military conflict with Beijing.

"Let me be clear: As secretary, I am committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China...including stronger crisis communications with the People's Liberation Army," he said, but "we will not flinch when our interests are threatened."

Meanwhile, concerning American assistance to allies and partners in the region to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin said the United States has shared some 40 million vaccine doses with the region, including with Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The donations were free and came with "no strings attached," he said, "because this is an emergency. And that's what friends do."

Austin is currently visiting Singapore and will soon travel to Vietnam and the Philippines as part of a Southeast Asia tour, the first by a Cabinet secretary to do so since President Joe Biden took office.

In his speech, Austin said his visit to Southeast Asia was meant "to deepen America's bonds with the allies and partners on whom our common security depends."

"Our network of alliances and friendships is an unparalleled strategic asset. And I never take an ally for granted," he said.

(By Elaine Hou and Joseph Yeh)

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