The United States is not trying to establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Indo-Pacific region, Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said on Monday adding that the nation will continue to work with like-minded countries to ensure that the region remains free and open.
While answering a media query over the Chinese defence minister’s statement, Austin said at a press conference, “We are absolutely not trying to establish a NATO in the Indo-Pacific. We continue to work with like-minded countries to ensure that the region remains free and open so that commerce can prosper and ideas can continue to be exchanged.”
“We will continue that work. Certainly, India and us share the same vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
This came in response to China’s statement on NATO. Earlier, Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu warned against NATO-like military alliances in the Asia-Pacific, saying they would plunge the region into a “whirlpool” of conflict, Channel News Asia reported.
Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, he said, “In essence, attempts to push for NATO-like (alliances) in the Asia-Pacific is a way of kidnapping regional countries and exaggerating conflicts and confrontations, which will only plunge the Asia-Pacific into a whirlpool of disputes and conflicts.”
Austin arrived in India on Sunday and is currently on a four-nation visit. India is the third stop, after visiting Japan and Singapore.
Meanwhile, on the probability of the misadventures that can take place in the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC), Austin said, “In terms of what could happen along the LAC, I won’t get into any kind of speculation, but a number of things can always happen.. but want to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure that things don’t happen. And part of that is being able to communicate with great powers, and with each other to prevent things from incidents escalating out of control. So I won’t… to speculate as to whether or not there’ll be additional misadventure, but I certainly hope not.”
Earlier today, Austin and Union Minister Rajnath Singh held the bilateral meeting and delegation-level talks where they concluded a roadmap for Defence Industrial Cooperation which will identify opportunities for the co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems as well as facilitate increased collaboration between defence start-up ecosystems of the two countries.