WASHINGTON, January 23, 2016 —
China as a rising power is a major factor in Asia and the South China Sea that’s welcomed by the United States in almost every way, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday.
The secretary spoke in the forum’s global security panel with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam of Singapore.
While Carter said he does not believe conflict between the United States and China is inevitable, he added, “It’s certainly not desirable. I don't think it's likely.”
More Nations on the Rise
China's rise is not the only one going on in Asia, he said, noting that India and Japan also are rising military powers, while other nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines also are expanding.
“The U.S. point of view is the same one we've had long-standing, which is we welcome that,” Carter said. “I think we were the pivotal factor in making [an environment] in which over seven decades essentially everybody could follow their own destiny towards prosperity.”
Carter said the United States has “never tried to obstruct China's economic rise and the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”
“We've welcomed that,” he added.
At the same time, the United States wants the region to maintain a system of peace and stability, the secretary said. “We are not separate, we are not dividing the region, [and] we don't seek to ask people to take sides,” he told the forum audience. “We do know people are coming to us increasingly, … because China is taking some steps that I think are self-isolating [and] driving people toward us.”
U.S. Firmly Against Claims, Outposts
The United States has said nations in the Asia-Pacific region should not militarize, Carter said. “To be clear,” he added, “China is not the only one making claims we do not agree with, and they are not the only ones [with] military outposts. We oppose all of that.”
The United States will continue on the same path it’s taken in the Asia-Pacific region, the secretary said.
“We will fly, sail, operate everywhere international law permits in the South China Sea, [and] we will make investments that are intended to sustain our military position, despite these developments,” Carter said.
The United States helps countries in the region who seek assistance with maritime security, he said, adding that U.S. alliances are continuing to strengthen with nations that include Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, India and Vietnam.
Dialogue is Key With China
“It's not our preferred course to see self-isolating behavior by China, and yes, dialogue is the way … [toward] good results,” Carter said.
“I look forward to working with all my colleagues in the region, including the Chinese, to get an outcome that's win-win-win-win for everybody,” he said. “That's what we've always stood for. Everybody rises. That's our philosophy.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)