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    US Defense Secretary Says Washington Won’t Stand for ‘Coercion and Bullying’ From China

    US Defense Secretary Says Washington Won't Stand for ‘Coercion and Bullying' From China

    SINGAPORE (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin vowed Saturday that would not stand for any “coercion and bullying” of its allies and partners by , while assuring that the United States remains committed to maintaining the status quo on Taiwan and would prefer dialogue over conflict.

    Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum bringing together top defense officials, diplomats and leaders in Singapore, Austin lobbied for support for Washington's vision of a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights” as the best course to counter increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region.

    The U.S. has been expanding its own activities around the Indo-Pacific to counter sweeping territorial claims from China, including regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.

    “We are committed to ensuring that every country can fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said at the forum hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank. “And every country, large or small, must remain free to conduct lawful maritime activities.”

    Austin noted that the U.S. had provided millions of doses of the -19 vaccine during the height of the pandemic and is regularly involved in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance efforts in the region. He said it is working to combat climate…

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