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Esper pushes allied effort to challenge China

July 22, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 9: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on July 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Esper was scheduled to testify about the role of the Department of Defense in civilian law enforcement. Active duty troops aided local law enforcement around the country at protests last month in the wake of George Floyd's death. (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that Washington is counting on Asian partners to help rein in an increasingly aggressive China, as two of the US Navy's most powerful warships conducted drills with allies in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Hong Kong (CNN)United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that Washington is counting on Asian partners to help rein in an increasingly aggressive China, as two of the US Navy's most powerful warships conducted drills with allies in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Esper accused Beijing of bullying nations around the Pacific, depriving countries with claims in the South China Sea of fishing rights and trillions of dollars of oil and gas revenue.

Esper, delivering an online speech to the UK based International Institute of Strategic Studies, said Washington was prepared to uphold its pledge to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, banking on a three-pillar strategy to do so: "preparedness, strengthening partnerships and promoting a more networked region. "

In its annual defense white paper released this month, Japan said China had been putting continued pressure around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing calls the Daioyu, while also sending more ships and planes on missions around Japanese maritime and airspaces.

"There's nothing new in terms of the position, but the tone and tenor of the statement tells you that India is going to speak in a louder voice on what's happening in the South China Sea," said Abhijit Singh, a senior fellow and head of Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

China has been conducting its own drills, which could become more frequent and routine if the US continues to ramp up military provocations in the region, said state-run tabloid the Global Times, quoting analysts.

Because of US actions like the dual-carrier exercises, "China is forced to take countermeasures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Global Times said.

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