Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a press conference on February 19, 2022 in Vilnius, Lithuania. | Paulius Peleckis/Getty Images
By Stuart Lau
pledge to defend Taiwan militarily should China invade the self-ruling democratic island.
A senior Chinese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he agreed with U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, who this week described U.S.-China relations as hitting the “lowest moment” since 1972.
Taiwan has become a major focal point in the conference, with the Russian war on Ukraine adding to the uncertainty about the security situation in the Indo-Pacific.
Austin alluded to the comparability between the two regions. “Do rules matter? Does sovereignty matter? Does the system that we have built together matter?” Austin said. “I’m here because the rules-based international order matters just as much in the Indo-Pacific as it does in Europe.”
“That’s especially important as the PRC [People’s Republic of China] adopts a more coercive and aggressive approach to its territorial claims,” he said.
Austin also highlighted the Chinese military’s targeting of Australian aircraft over recent months, with a recent incident “seriously endangering everyone on board.”