US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday he sees no imminent invasion of Taiwan by China but said China was trying to establish a “new normal” with its military activities around the island.
A visit to Taiwan early in August by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi enraged China, which subsequently launched military drills near the island. Those have continued, although on a much reduced scale.
“I don’t see an imminent invasion,” Austin said in an interview broadcast on CNN.
“What we do see is China moving to establish what we would call a new normal. Increased activity - we saw a number of center line crossings of the Taiwan Strait by their aircraft. That number has increased over time. We’ve seen more activity with their surface vessels and waters in and around Taiwan.”
The United States and its allies have responded to the drills by continuing to sail through the region. A US Navy warship and a Canadian frigate made a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait on Sept. 20.
The United States will continue to work with its allies and partners “to ensure that we maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Austin said in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” that was recorded on Friday.
The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.
The United States is working to reopen channels of military communication with China, something that is critical to both countries, Austin said.
China in August halted cooperation with the United States in a number of areas, including dialogue between senior-level military commanders, in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Austin said he has communicated by phone and in person with his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who agreed that open communications were important.
“We’ll do everything we can to continue to signal that we want those channels open and I would hope that China will begin to lean forward a bit more and work with us,” he said.
US, Australia and Japan to boost cooperation to counter China’s influenceThe defense ministers of the United States, Australia and Japan agreed Saturday to boost military cooperation in the face of China’s growing ambitions ... World News
China signals no let-up in its aggressive approach to foreign policy under XiChina signaled on Thursday no let-up in its combative approach to foreign policy in a third term for Xi Jinping as leader despite criticism from many ... World News
Era of ‘blind engagement’ with China ending, says Pompeo in Taiwan speechFormer US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told an audience in Taiwan on Tuesday that the era of “blind engagement” with China is ending, and that ... World News
US’s Harris, Japan’s Kishida condemn China’s actions in Taiwan StraitUS Vice President Kamala Harris reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Japan’s defense during a meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in ... World News