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US will not bear 'bullying or coercion' of allies, defense secretary tells Asian security summit

US will not bear 'bullying or coercion' of allies, defense secretary tells Asian security summit

By Islamuddin Sajid 

 

ANKARA (AA) – US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday said Washington and his allies do not seek "conflict or confrontation" in the Indo-Pacific region but warned that they will not "flinch in the face of bullying or coercion."

Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin said tension is rising in the Indo-Pacific by North Korea's nuclear threats and "other dangerous provocations."

"To be clear: we do not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion," Austin said, according to a statement issued by the US Department of Defense.

He pledged to support their allies and partners in the region who according to him are defending themselves against "coercion and bullying."

"The People's Republic of China continues to conduct an alarming number of risky intercepts of US and allied aircraft flying lawfully in international airspace. And we've all just seen another troubling case of aggressive and unprofessional flying by the PRC," he said.

The 20th Shangri-La Dialogue, which began on Friday, will continue till Sunday.

The three-day summit is being attended by top defense and security officials from different countries, including the US and China.

At the opening reception, Austin and his Chinese counterpart shook hands.

However, Beijing has already declined the Pentagon's request for a meeting between the two defense chiefs on the sidelines of the summit.

On Friday, Austin, during his address, stressed the need for dialogue to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations.

"Dialogue is not a reward. It is a necessity. And a cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement. And the more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.

"The United States believes that open lines of communication with the People's Republic of China are essential – especially between our defense and military leaders. For responsible defense leaders, the right time to talk is anytime. The right time to talk is everytime. And the right time to talk is now," he said.

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