US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday in dangerous statements outlining the US stance of President Donald Trump’s tough stance toward Beijing that “the United States is equipping and repositioning its forces throughout Asia in preparation for a possible confrontation with China” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Esper, who was speaking from the Pentagon by video to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the United States would continue to send naval ships to the region to counter China’s expansionist policies and sell arms to Taiwan, which Beijing claims sovereignty.
He said he is open to dialogue and plans to visit China by the end of the year.
He expressed the hope that such a trip would lead to “establishing the necessary systems for communications in crises and strengthening our intentions to openly compete in the international system to which we all belong”.
Esber is the last senior official in the Trump administration last month to have spoken out publicly about the challenges the Chinese Communist government poses to the United States and the international system.
The Trump administration has stepped up pressure against Beijing in all areas, from trade tariffs to sanctions against companies and officials.
On Tuesday, the US government accused Chinese citizens of plotting with Chinese intelligence to steal intellectual property from dozens of companies worldwide, including those working to treat the Coronavirus.
These were the latest Chinese-backed piracy allegations faced by the Trump administration.
In his speech, Defense Secretary Esper said that China had intimidated allies and regional partners about nearly $ 2.6 trillion in potential offshore oil and gas revenues, despite the increasingly aggressive US military stance in the region.
In 2019, the United States undertook more operations to assure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea than in the past four decades, Esper added.
Earlier this month, two aircraft carriers conducted training there, for the first time since 2012.
“This policy defends the Indian and Pacific free and open ocean regions in which all the various countries of the region can live and prosper in peace,” Esper pointed out.
Esber also said on Tuesday that the United States will sell weapons to Taiwan, a move likely to exacerbate tensions because China views such sales as a violation of its sovereignty.
The Trump administration agreed to arms sales worth nearly $ 10 billion, including a $ 180 million shipments in May.
He also said that the US military will continue to carry out operations to ensure freedom of navigation across the Taiwan Strait.
The US Navy reported that the USS Russell, a Navy destroyer, passed through the Taiwan Strait last month.
If Esper travels to Beijing, this will be his first visit as defense minister. At the time, Defense Minister Jim Mattis visited Beijing in 2018, and he is the first defense chief to do so since 2014.
Esper’s comments came just days after the United States announced that Chinese claims to the South China Sea are illegal, which is an unusual direct challenge to Beijing’s efforts to assert control over strategic waters.
“We’re making clear… that Beijing’s allegations of marine resources in most of the South China Sea are absolutely illegal, as well as its bullying campaign to control it,” Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo said in a statement earlier this month.
From London, Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that he had begun with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Rapp their talks focusing on the “challenge posed by the Communist Party of China” and the epidemic of the Coronavirus, which originated in China.
Pompeo said they also discussed the Hong Kong issue, as Beijing cracks down on the opposition.
He praised the British government for its decision this month to exclude “Huawei” for the manufacture of communications equipment from the fifth generation telecommunications networks in the United Kingdom, as this decision came after prolonged American pressure.