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U.S. Seeks to Build Network of Like-Minded Nations in Indo-Pacific

Contrary to Chinese claims, there is no U.S. effort to establish a "NATO-like" organization in the Indo-Pacific.  

This is not to say the United States does not have allies, partners and friends in the region. And this is not to say that the United States is not working to strengthen those ties and build a network in the region. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and another official stand at one end of a red carpet, along which service members are saluting.
Anthem Observance
Jose C. Faustino Jr., officer in charge of the Philippine Department of National Defense, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III render honors during the playing of the Philippine national anthem at Camp Smith, Hawaii. The two men are meeting to examine the alliance between the two countries.
Photo By: Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 220929-D-FN714-001R

Ultimately, the United States and its allies are defending the international rules-based order that has served the region and globe so well. That order has fostered unprecedented economic growth in the region. This includes China – which, paradoxically, is the country trying hardest to overturn this order to its own benefit. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is in Hawaii this week to meet with regional allies to strengthen the bonds among them. He is meeting with defense leaders from the Philippines, Japan and Australia. 

"The regional architecture in the Indo-Pacific is a constellation of a variety of mechanisms and institutions," said a senior defense official speaking on background. "There's no singular organization or organizing principle that governs the entire region." 

At its heart, meetings like this look to develop a network among like-minded nations in the region. 

The United States has bilateral relations with many countries in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. also has treaty allies – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and Thailand. The U.S. works with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – which includes 10 nations. There are trilateral groupings, quadrilateral groupings and more. "These are all additive and complementary to each other," the official said.

Building a network in the region does not mean building a singular organization, it means working together with more countries on that shared vision, the official said. This, by itself, makes it more likely to build stability and prosperity for the region. 

Coming together has happened before, obviously. "The Quad [India, Japan, Australia and the United States] that meets today really was born out of the Indian Ocean tsunami [of 2004] when a bunch of nations came together and asked, 'How do we respond to this together?'" the official said. 

Indo-Pacific nations often work together without the United States. Japan and Australia have a strong bilateral relationship, for example.  

"What we are trying to do when we talk about building a network, is to strengthen the institutional capacity of each of those nations so that if there is a crisis, it's not the first time [they're] ever trying to do anything together," the official said. "You have habits of cooperation, as well as increase the ties between those networks, sometimes not even involving us."

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