New Delhi: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said on Saturday that China has continued to harden its position along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.
Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Mr Austin said, “We see Beijing continue to harden its position along the border that it shares with India.”
This is the second time this week that a senior US official has commented on the India-China stand-off.
Earlier this week, the US Army's Pacific Commanding General, Gen. Charles A. Flynn had said that the Chinese activity near Ladakh is “eye-opening” and some of the infrastructure being created by the PLA is “alarming”.
The US defence secretary said that China is also pushing limits in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
"In the East China Sea, the PRC’s expanding fishing fleet is sparking tensions with its neighbors. In the South China Sea, the PRC is using outposts on man-made islands bristling with advanced weaponry to advance its illegal maritime claims," he said.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, he said that today, the Indo-Pacific is at the heart of American grand strategy.
"We’re also weaving closer ties with other partners. I’m especially thinking of India, the world’s largest democracy. We believe that its growing military capability and technological prowess can be a stabilising force in the region," said Mr Austin.
He said that the US has increased exercise and training with its partners in the region.
"Last spring, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group rotated through the Indian Ocean. And we conducted simultaneous joint operations with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force that integrated airpower and anti-submarine warfare," he said.
Mr Austin said that, over the past 18 months, the US has helped to bring new vigour to the Quad. "That includes a third Quad leaders’ summit last month, bringing together four of the region’s largest producers of prosperity and security. And as the Quad leaders have noted, they are eager to work with ASEAN and the Pacific Islands to advance our shared goals," he said.
He pointed out that several European allies have been deploying to the Indo-Pacific and operating alongside our partners in the region in unprecedented ways.
"The United Kingdom made history last year with its deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, as part of a multinational carrier strike group that included a U.S. destroyer and an American Marine Corps F-35 squadron. And so it was a significant accomplishment," said Mr Austin.
Such deployments send a message of strength and stability, he added....