Pacific defense chiefs meet amid rising China

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by By LOLITA C. BALDOR

SYDNEY (AP) — Defense chiefs from across the Indo-Pacific met this week to strengthen their relationship amid China’s ongoing drive to expand its influence and military presence in the region.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military leaders meeting for three days in Sydney are focused on “the big picture with the rise of China, a free and open Pacific “and the guarantee of a peaceful and stable Indo. -Pacific region.

“This is a great conference to coordinate our mutual security interests and discuss national security issues that apply to all of us,” Milley said.

Military leaders from 26 countries are attending the conference, and most of them are defense chiefs. China was invited but said it could not attend.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Milley said defense chiefs discussed how they could cooperate more and make their militaries more interoperable, including with advanced technologies. He added that they also talked about military exercises.

He and Australian Chief of Defense General Angus Campbell did not go into detail. But Milley expanded on comments he made late last week about China’s growing aggressiveness in the region and the need for nations to ensure the Pacific remains free and open to all.

Chinese interceptions of allied and partner aircraft in international airspace in the Pacific region have ‘multiplied’ over the past five years, Milley said, calling Beijing’s behavior ‘much more confrontational’ than before. is five to 15 years old.

China’s activity, he said, “seems to imply that it wants to bully or dominate, instead of having a free and open Pacific.”

When asked if the United States would increase its military presence in Australia or other partner nations, Milley and Campbell said discussions were ongoing and no decision had been made. There are approximately 2,200 US Marines in Darwin.

En route to the conference, Milley told traveling reporters that the Chinese military has become much more aggressive and dangerous in recent years.

US President Joe Biden plans to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, according to a US official who declined to be identified ahead of the public announcement.

The United States is also grappling with reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering a trip to Taiwan – unsettling China and sparking waves of concern in the Biden administration.

Asked about Pelosi’s potential trip, Milley would only say that discussing any specific trip is premature. But, he added, “if it is decided that President Pelosi or someone else is going to travel and they request military support, we will do what is necessary to ensure that their visit goes smoothly. And I’ll leave it at that.

The conference also coincides with the massive Rim of the Pacific naval exercise taking place near Hawaii. RIMPAC is the largest maritime exercise in the world and is hosted by the United States

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