Davos: The US is not asking countries like India and Vietnam to take sides in the Asia Pacific region, but steps Beijing is taking in the disputed South China Sea are “self-isolating” and driving countries towards America, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said.
“I’ve been to India, Vietnam recently. We want to have good relations with them and we are not asking people to take sides,” Carter said in a panel discussion in Davos on World Economic Forum meeting yesterday.
“I think their position is basically right, which is we want everybody to keep being able to do what they are doing. We don’t want to have to pick sides. America doesn’t want to have sides either,” said the Defense Secretary.
Carter, however, acknowledged that countries in the region are increasingly coming to the US.
“We do know that people are coming to us increasingly. Why is that? It is because China is taking some steps that I think are self-isolating, driving people towards a result that none of us wants,” he said, in reference to Chinese measures in the South China Sea.
“I’m not one of those people who believes conflict between the United States and China is inevitable, it’s certainly not desirable, I don’t think it’s likely,” he said.
He attributed the rise of China to the peace and stability in the region, which was ensured by the US.
“China’s rise is, by the way, not the only rise going on in Asia. India is a rising military power. Japan, if you have noticed, is a rising military power, and there are others who are doing things. Vietnam, Philippines, and so forth,” Carter said in response to a question.
“The US point of view is the same one we’ve had long- standing, which is we welcome that. We’ve tried to create an environment there, and we were the pivotal factor in making this so, in which over seven decades essentially everybody could follow their own destiny towards prosperity,” he said.
And that includes China, he added. “We never tried to obstruct China’s economic rise and the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We’ve welcomed that. Nor any of these other states we talked about,” the Defense Secretary said.
At the same time, he argued, the US does not want to ruin a good thing, which is a system of peace and stability there.
“We are not dividing the region, we don’t seek to ask people to take sides,” he said.
China is not the only one that’s making claims that the US does not agree with, and they are not the only ones that are military outposts. “We oppose all of that. And for our part, we have said everybody, not just China but everybody who is doing that should stop and not militarize,” he said.
The US, he asserted, will keep on doing what it has always done – fly, sail and operate everywhere international law permits in the South China Sea. He said the US is helping other countries that are all coming to US for assistance in maritime security.