An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Austin Says U.S. Will Continue Push for Open Indo-Pacific

A man stands at a lectern.
Secretary Austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III makes a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore., June 3, 2023. Austin also met with regional defense leaders at the event, which is hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230603-D-TT977-0103Y

The United States will continue to work with regional allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region, despite challenges emanating from China, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in Singapore yesterday. 

The Indo-Pacific is the U.S. military's is No. 1 area of focus, Austin said, and China is the pacing challenge.  

"As you look at our budget request … our budget request is directly linked to our strategy, and you see us continuing to invest in things that are relevant to our efforts in this region," he said.  

The United States continues to send its most modern and capable weapons systems to the Indo-Pacific. In addition, the Defense Department has budgeted more than $9 billion to the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. DOD continues to invest in research for systems tailored to the region, including work on hypersonics, deterrence of cyberthreats and more. 

Austin was in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue – the premier meeting of defense ministers and experts in the region. He addressed reporters traveling with him soon after Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu spoke at the event. "I would just say that … it's interesting to listen to … what he says," Austin said. "[But] what's most important is — watch what they do." 

People in business attire and military uniforms sit at tables arranged in a triangle.
Leaders Meet
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense, Lee Jong-sup conduct a meeting at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 3, 2023. The event is hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 230603-D-TT977-0197Y

The secretary has expressed his concern about China's "irresponsible behavior" in the South China Sea. "We've seen close intercepts and the coercive behavior … in the waterways," he said.  

He noted that, as he arrived in Singapore, there were reports of an incident where a Chinese ship came within 150 meters of the USS Chung Hoon and a Canadian vessel, which were transiting the Taiwan Strait. Two weeks ago, a Chinese aircraft intercepted a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft operating in international airspace.  

"I call upon [China's] leadership to really do the right things, to reign in that kind of conduct because I think accidents can happen that could cause things to spiral out of control," Austin said.  

Austin spoke of the April 2001 P-3 incident where a Chinese pilot rammed a Navy P-3 aircraft. The Chinese pilot died, and the Navy plane had to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan island. "In those days, we were talking to [China], and it was still very difficult to manage that crisis," Austin said. "Imagine now if something happens and we don't have clear communications how difficult that's going to be and what could happen in the short term." 

The secretary said it's interesting to hear what Chinese leaders have to say, but what they actually do is more telling. He noted the dangerous activities continue.  

The freedom of navigations operations the United States and other nations engage in are perfectly legal. "They should be interested in freedom of navigation, as well, because … it would affect them," the secretary said.  

The Chinese also use the international commons. "If there are no laws, if there are no rules, things will break down for them very quickly as well," he said.  

Chinese defense leaders have refused invitations to meet with Austin. The Chinese said it's because the United States has sanctioned Li Shangfu. 

"I am personally sanctioned in Russia," Austin said. "But I can — if I want to — talk to the Russian minister of defense."

Related Stories