US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is of the opinion that speculations of US-China conflict are “undesirable” and highly unlikely. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he, however, claimed that steps China is taking in the disputed South China Sea are “self-isolating” and driving countries more towards America. Though at the same time, he claimed that US is not asking countries like India and Vietnam to take sides in the Asia Pacific region.
“I’ve been to India, Vietnam recently. We want to have good relations with them and we are not asking people to take sides,” Ashton Carter said in a panel discussion in Davos on World Economic Forum meeting on Friday.
“I think their position is basically right, which is we want everybody to keep being able to do what they are doing. We don’t want to have to pick sides. America doesn’t want to have sides either,” the US Defense Secretary added.
Carter also acknowledged that countries in the region are increasingly coming to the US.
“We do know that people are coming to us increasingly. Why is that? It is because China is taking some steps that I think are self-isolating, driving people towards a result that none of us wants,” he said, in reference to Chinese measures in the South China Sea.
Addressing the gathering at the Swiss city, he dubbed the speculation of US-China conflict as “undesirable” and highly unlikely and sought credit for US ensuring stability in the region.
“I’m not one of those people who believes conflict between the United States and China is inevitable, it’s certainly not desirable, I don’t think it’s likely,” he said attributing the rise of China to the peace and stability in the region.
“We never tried to obstruct China’s economic rise and the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We’ve welcomed that,” the Defense Secretary said adding that China is not the only one to be rising.
“China’s rise is, by the way, not the only rise going on in Asia. India is a rising military power. Japan, if you have noticed, is a rising military power, and there are others who are doing things. Vietnam, Philippines, and so forth,” Carter said in response to a question.
“The US point of view is the same one we’ve had long-standing, which is we welcome that. We’ve tried to create an environment there, and we were the pivotal factor in making this so,” he said.
At the same time, he argued, the US does not want to ruin a good thing, which is a system of peace and stability there. The US, he asserted, will keep on doing what it has always done – fly, sail and operate everywhere international law permits in the South China Sea.
“We are not dividing the region, we don’t seek to ask people to take sides,” he said.
(With inputs from the PTI)