Lloyd Austin issues warning to China over Taiwan

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a warning toward China this week regarding aggression in the Pacific.

Austin, who spoke at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore on Tuesday, said the United States "will not flinch when our interests are threatened," specifically referencing supporting Taiwan, but added that the U.S. is not seeking a "confrontation" with China.

"Unfortunately, Beijing’s unwillingness to resolve disputes peacefully and respect the rule of law isn’t just occurring on the water," he said. "We have also seen aggression against India … destabilizing military activity and other forms of coercion against the people of Taiwan … and genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang."

The secretary of defense added that the U.S. will "stay focused on helping Taiwan to defend itself or having the capabilities to defend itself going forward," adding, "The way you manage [disputes] counts."

Austin's trip to the Pacific comes as the Biden administration is changing the military's operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. will have all of its troops out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, which was moved up from the originally scheduled Sept. 11 end date, while President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi announced on Monday that the U.S.’s combat mission will cease at the end of the year.

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Despite the warning, Austin affirmed that the U.S. is "committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China" and said the country isn't "asking countries in the region to choose between the U.S. and China."

Former U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Phil Davidson warned that China's "ambitions to supplant the United States" makes Taiwan a focal point during testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, according to Defense One. He predicted a "threat" to Taiwan to "manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years."

                                                                                      
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Britain to permanently deploy two warships in Asian waters

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TOKYO (Reuters) -Britain said on Tuesday it would permanently deploy two warships in Asian waters after its Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and escort ships sail to Japan in September through seas where China is vying for influence with the United States and Japan.

Plans for the high-profile visit by the carrier strike group come as London deepens security ties with Tokyo, which has expressed growing alarm in recent months over China's territorial ambitions in the region, including Taiwan.

"Following on from the strike group's inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year," Britain's defence minister, Ben Wallace, said in a joint announcement in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi.

After their arrival in Japan, Kishi said, the Queen Elizabeth and its escort ships would split up for separate port calls to U.S. and Japanese naval bases along the Japanese archipelago.

In a statement on the deployment, a Pentagon spokesperson congratulated Britain for its "commitment to an inter-connected network of allies and partners, who mutually cooperate and support freedom of navigation and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region."

A close U.S. ally, Japan hosts the biggest concentration of U.S. military forces outside the United States, including ships, aircraft and thousands of Marines.

The British carrier, which is carrying F-35B stealth jets on its maiden voyage, will dock at Yokosuka, the home of Japan's fleet command and the USS Ronald Reagan, the only forward deployed U.S. aircraft carrier.

The British ships will not have a permanent base, a spokesperson at the British Embassy in Tokyo said when asked which ports the Royal Navy ships would operate from.

The Queen Elizabeth is being escorted by two destroyers, two frigates, two support vessels and ships from the United States and the Netherlands.

It will come to Japan through the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by China and Southeast Asian countries, with stops in India, Singapore and South Korea.

In a further sign of Britain's growing regional engagement, Wallace, who traveled to Japan with a delegation of military commanders, said the UK would also eventually deploy a Littoral Response Group, a unit of marines trained to undertake missions including evacuations and anti-terrorism operations.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Irene Wang; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel and Peter Cooney)

                                                                                      
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Japan warns of crisis over Taiwan, growing risks from U.S.-China rivalry

FILE PHOTO: Japan Ground Self-Defense Force hold annual live fire exercise in Gotemba
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By Tim Kelly

TOKYO (Reuters) -Growing military tension around Taiwan as well as economic and technological rivalry between China and the United States raises the prospect of crisis in the region as the power balance shifts in China's favour, Japan said in its annual defence white paper.

China rejected Japan's conclusions about what it said was normal military activity, calling them irresponsible.

The Japanese defence review, which was approved by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government on Tuesday, points to China as Japan's main national security concern.

"It is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever," the paper said in a new section on Taiwan.

"In particular, competition in technological fields is likely to become even more intense," it said about U.S.-China rivalry.

China's recent increase in military activity around Taiwan has Japan worried since the island lies close to the Okinawa chain at the western end of the Japanese archipelago.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed thanks to Japan for attaching such importance to security in the Taiwan Strait.

But there was an angry reaction in Beijing which said Japan has "for some time now" been making baseless accusations about China's normal defence buildup and military activities.

"This is very wrong and irresponsible. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Chinese President Xi Jinping this month pledged to complete the "reunification" with Taiwan and in June criticised the United States as a "risk creator" after it sent a warship through the Taiwan Straits separating the island from the mainland.

Japan's deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso, this month in a speech reported by Japanese media said Japan should join forces with the United States to defend Taiwan from any invasion. Aso later said any contingency over Taiwan should be resolved through dialogue when asked about the remarks, which drew a rebuke from Beijing.

As the military rivalry between the United States and China deepens, their economic competition is fuelling a race to take the lead in technologies such as semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

The technological rivalry poses a challenge for Japan because its economy relies as much on business ties with China as it does with the United States.

Japan will also have to spend heavily to keep up with government funding for technology development in the United States, China and Europe.

U.S. Senate lawmakers recently passed the Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which authorises $190 billion spending on technology including $54 billion to increase chip production.

U.S. House of Representative lawmakers are debating a separate proposal that also promises generous funding, known as the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act, or EAGLE Act.

The Japanese annual security review for the first time included a section on threats posed by climate change, which it said would increase competition for land and resources and may trigger mass movements of displaced people.

An increase in disasters linked to global warming could also stretch military capabilities, Japan said, while Arctic Sea ice melting could lead to the militarisation of northern waters.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Stephen Coates)

                                                                                      
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Japan deputy PM comment on defending Taiwan if invaded angers China

FILE PHOTO: Japan's key economic ministers deliver policy speeches at start of parliament sessions
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TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan's deputy prime minister said the country needed to defend Taiwan with the United States if the island was invaded, Kyodo news agency reported late on Monday, angering Beijing which regards Taiwan as its own territory.

China has never ruled out using force to reunite Taiwan with the mainland and recent military exercises by China and Taiwan across the Straits of Taiwan have raised tensions.

"If a major problem took place in Taiwan, it would not be too much to say that it could relate to a survival-threatening situation (for Japan)," Japan's deputy prime minister Taro Aso said at a fundraising party by a fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, according to Kyodo.

A "survival-threatening situation" refers to a situation where an armed attack against a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan occurs, which in turns poses a clear risk of threatening Japan's survival.

Such a situation is one of the conditions that need to be met for Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defence, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack.

"We need to think hard that Okinawa could be the next," Aso was quoted by Kyodo as saying.

China foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular news conference on Tuesday that Aso's remarks "harmed the political foundation of China-Japan relations", and China "resolutely opposed" them.

"No one should underestimate the Chinese people's staunch resolve, firm will, and formidable ability to defend national sovereignty," he said.

China claims a group of Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea. The tiny uninhabited isles, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are off Japan's southern island of Okinawa.

Aso, asked about Japan's stance on the cross-strait issue at a news conference on Tuesday, said any contingency over Taiwan should be resolved through dialogue.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," Aso, who doubles as finance minister, told reporters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, when asked if Aso's Monday comment was in line with the government's stance, declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the Aso comment in detail, but reiterated Japan's official policy on the matter.

"Japan hopes the Taiwan issue will be resolved through direct dialogue between parties concerned in a peaceful manner. That has been our consistent stance," the top government spokesman said.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Ritsuko Ando, Michael Perry and Muralikumar Anantharaman)