US blasts China on security and trade
Admiral Harry Harris is considered an adversary by China because of his hardline approach to maritime disputes in the South China Sea. A US Navy commander tipped as the frontrunner to be appointed President Donald Trump's next ambassador to Australia has denounced China as a "disruptive force" in Asia, as the Trump administration ramped up its hawkish stance against Beijing. Harry Harris, a well-known security hardliner on China, issued the fiery assessment at a meeting with counterparts from Australia, Japan and India late last week in New Delhi.
"China is a disruptive, transitional force in the Indo-Pacific," Admiral Harris said, according to the The Times of India. "We must be willing to take tough decisions in 2018 against unilateral ways to change the use of global commons with rule-based freedom of navigation." Separately on Friday the new US defence strategy said great power competition and "growing threats from revisionist powers", China and Russia, had replaced terrorism as the No.1 security risk to the US.Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, poses with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, before a meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo last Thursday. SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI
Confronting China and Russia and staying ahead of their quickly expanding military capabilities are the Pentagon's "principal priorities" and will require "increased and sustained investment," according to an 11-page unclassified summary of the 2018 National Defence Strategy released on Friday. The two US rivals are actively seeking to "co-opt or replace the free and open order that has enabled global security and prosperity since World War II," according to the report.
To counter that effort, the US will "thwart their use of coercion and intimidation to advance their goals and harm US interests". Meanwhile, the US Trade Representative's annual report laid the ground for a trade war by blasting China for failing to live up to its commitment when it joined the World Trade Organisation to embrace market-oriented economic policies. "Today, almost two decades after it pledged to support the multilateral trading system of the WTO, the Chinese government pursues a wide array of continually evolving interventionist policies and practices aimed at limiting market access for imported goods and services and foreign manufacturers and service suppliers," the USTR report said.
The meeting of the naval chiefs in India, including Australia's Tim Barrett, built on efforts by the four nations to revive the "Quadrilateral" dialogue, a strategic and security initiative intended to counter China's rising dominance in the region. Indonesia, not a Quad member, was also represented by a diplomat.Malcolm Turnbull greets Admiral Harry Harris in New York in May, alongside Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin in May 2017. AP
Raising alarm across the region, Beijing has militarised up to seven islands in the South China Sea by installing large anti-aircraft guns, runways and other facilities in the £US5 trillion (£6.25 trillion) trade corridor through which about two-thirds of Australia's seaborne trade passes. The naval gathering in India coincided with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's visit to see Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last week.
In an exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review, Mr Abe outlined an ambitious agenda for a reconvened regional security grouping - the Quad - and envisaged it would provide aid, infrastructure and maritime security across south-east Asia and the Pacific islands. Mr Abe said the group needed to "raise our voices" to ensure freedom of navigation, co-operation and the rule of law prevailed across the region - a clear shot across the bow of rival China.A Chinese Navy frigate and a Russian Navy ship take part in a joint naval drill in the South China Sea. AP
"It is very important to support south-east Asian countries as well as Pacific island countries, coastal nations, so that their maritime enforcement capability can be assisted and enhanced," he said. Mr Turnbull and Mr Abe announced a range of measures to enhance defence and diplomatic co-operation in the region, in what analysts regard as a counterweight to China's rising clout.
Mr Turnbull also appeared to try to mend relations with China, twice praising Beijing for its role in combating North Korea and saying he was now more positive over the resolution of territorial disputes in the region. While China has not formally responded to the strengthening ties between Australia and Japan, local media quoted academics saying any effort to bolster military co-operation between the two countries was bad for the region. Lu Yaodong, the director of Japan studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the quasi-alliance would complicate the security situation in east Asia. "A new factor of Japan and Australia has been added.
This imposes a new threat to the peace and stability of east Asia," he was quoted as saying in the overseas edition of the People's Daily. The newspaper also quoted Meng Xiaoxu, a scholar from China's University of International Relations, who said cooperation between Japan and Australia would have a "significant negative impact" on the region and raise fears that Japan was not a peaceful nation. The Washington Post reported last year that Admiral Harris was a top contender to be the US ambassador in Canberra.
He is currently commander of US Pacific Command in Hawaii, overseeing 375,000 military and civilian personnel, 200 ships and 1100 aircraft in the US Pacific Fleet. The Japanese-born American is considered an adversary by China because of his hardline approach to maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Beijing asked President Trump to fire him from the top navy post, a request that was rebuffed.
A senior adviser on Asia Pacific security at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Andrew Shearer, said: "Admiral Harris' comments reflect a growing consensus - not only at Pacific Command but also in Washington, Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra - that China's long-term strategic intentions are at odds with maintaining the rules-based order that has underpinned the region's prosperity and are jeopardising regional stability." Admiral Harris told Congress last year: "we cannot turn a blind eye" to China and other adversaries if they "purposely erode the rules-based security order that has served America and this region so well for so long". Admiral Harris is scheduled to step down from the PACOM post in May, potentially paving the way for a move to Canberra.
Career foreign service member James Caruso has stepped up as acting ambassador since President Barack Obama's appointee, John Berry, departed in September 2016.
- ^ frontrunner to be appointed President Donald Trump's next ambassador to Australia (www.afr.com)
- ^ The Times of India (m.timesofindia.com)
- ^ exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review (www.afr.com)
- ^ mend relations with China (www.afr.com)
- ^ told Congress last year (docs.house.gov)