US Secretary of Defense—General Lloyd Austin—will arrive in Hanoi today, beginning his trip to Southeast Asia. General Austin will also
US Secretary of Defense—General Lloyd Austin—will arrive in Hanoi today, beginning his trip to Southeast Asia.
General Austin will also visit the Philippines and Singapore in addition to Vietnam. The focus of the trip will be to strengthen alliances to combat China’s expansion into the South China Sea (SCS).
In Vietnam and the Philippines, expect the Secretary of Defense to stress the significance of cooperation within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) framework to rebuff Beijing’s maritime encroachment. Further, General Austin will likely recommend increased cooperation between US and ASEAN coast guards to combat China’s usage of grey-zone tactics—passive-aggressive activities that fall short of precipitating a forceful response, like the mass deployment of covert maritime militias and artificial island building. Likewise, the US is likely to stress the importance of US freedom of navigation operations as a means maintaining the sovereignty of the SCS.
In Singapore, General Austin will reaffirm the US’ commitments to its regional allies. Here, the General may be attempting to sway Singaporean support away from Beijing, bringing the city state closer to ASEAN’s stance towards China’s aggression. In response, China will likely issue a statement rebuking the Secretary of Defense’s trip as political encroachment.
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