U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted what he called China’s unlawful behavior in the South China Sea, while his Chinese counterpart said Beijing was determined to safeguard its core interests, at an ASEAN-hosted meeting on Wednesday.
Defense officials from the 10-member Association of the Southeast Asian Nations met virtually with counterparts from eight countries to discuss maritime security and other issues at the annual forum known as the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus.
In remarks to the gathering, Austin described the American vision for the Indo-Pacific region, “underscoring the importance of allies and partners, shared principles, and multilateral approaches to security challenges,” according to a statement issued by the Pentagon.
“He also highlighted unlawful PRC behavior in the South China Sea,” the statement said.
The annual gathering unfolded as an American aircraft carrier group conducted a “routine mission” in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy said on Tuesday, and amid sharpening tensions over territorial competition in the strategic waterway.