China’s embassy in Singapore on Thursday accused US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin of playing up a “so-called China threat” as part of “an attempt to drive a wedge between China and its neighbours.”
On Tuesday Austin gave a speech in Singapore in which he dismissed Chinese claims to most of the South China Sea and talked up Washington’s role in the “Indo-Pacific.”
The embassy accused Austin of “peddling the US ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ while making China a target.”
The “Indo-Pacific,” a broader term than the conventional “Asia-Pacific,” was adopted by the Trump administration as it sought closer relations with India and has been retained by President Joe Biden.
Austin is on his first official visit to South-East Asia, a trip that includes stopovers in Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which have opposed China’s claims to the disputed South China China
“Mr Austin’s remarks concerning the South China Sea and China-India relations are made to sow discord between China and its neighbours,” the embassy said, as Austin was meeting Vietnam’s prime minister in Hanoi.
Austin said on Tuesday that the US did not aim to force South-East Asia “to choose” between it and China, which NATO last month labelled “a systemic challenge.”
The embassy said Austin also “interfered in China’s internal affairs” by discussing Taiwan and engaged in “a deliberate smear” by saying “China has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighur Muslims.”