US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met his Philippine counterpart, Jose C. Faustino Jr., for talks on defense issues in Hawaii, Thursday (29/9).
The meeting came amid strained relations between the United States and China over a number of issues, including trade, human rights, security, Taiwan and several other issues.
The Austin meeting took place as President Joe Biden hosted the leaders of the Pacific Island nations who were in Washington for a summit with the United States. The US-Pacific Islands conference is an attempt by the United States to improve relations to counter China’s growing military and economic influence in the region.
Biden told visiting leaders from more than a dozen Pacific Island nations that the United States was committed to strengthening its presence in their region and becoming a more collaborative partner at a time when these countries struggle with the “existential threat” of climate change.
The US government also unveiled its Pacific strategy, an outline of the White House’s plans to help leaders in the region deal with pressing issues such as climate change, maritime security, and protecting the region from overfishing.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, and President Joe Biden’s comments that the United States would defend Taiwan if China invaded the island, sparked a heated reaction from China’s foreign ministry.
Earlier on Wednesday (28/9), Austin met Marshall Islands President David Kabua at the Pentagon. [ka/rs]