U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Reagan Defense Forum on Dec. 4 declined to view China as a concerning power compared to the U.S.

“In the Pacific, the United States is a major player,” he told Fox News.

“The Indo-Pacific is a region of great opportunity and real challenges. One of those challenges is the emergence of an increasingly assertive and autocratic China,” he acknowledged.

But Austin also noted that the U.S. would confront such challenges with “confidence and resolve—not panic and pessimism.”

At the forum, Austin and other top officials in the defense sector emphasized the need to develop relationships between the U.S. and its global allies. The most concerns that were discussed were the threats from China and Russia. Both nations have rapidly extended their military power at a pace unseen since World War II.

Calling the threats “formidable,” Austin said collective forces could still help the U.S. face it. By that, he said Washington would not force any government in a tough decision between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in their interactions with them.

Taiwan dispute

The U.S. officials at the forum reiterated that the Biden administration was looking to uphold the status quo in the region, and would continue to help Taiwan defense itself from China’s aggressive threats.

Relationship between the Washington and Beijing had deteriorated deeply recently over multiple issues despite the switching between two rival administrations from Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.

Although Biden had expressed that he was not favoring a return of Cold War with China, he reassured the U.S. is committed to assisting Taiwan with military capacities.

Beijing continued to grow more aggressive in demanding reunification with Taiwan. The self-ruling island has vowed to defend its democracy from Communist China.

Taiwan is a sovereign state, but under the “Taiwan Relations Act,” the “Three Joint Communiques,” and the “Six Guarantees,” the CCP, the UN, and the US have acknowledged it as part of the “One China” policy.

China’s ambitious territorial claims also displeased many other Asian nations, as it blatantly contested their exclusive economic zone in the Indo-Pacific.

The dispute has also drawn attention from many other neighboring nations, which also are having their exclusive economic zone blatantly contested by Beijing.

Concerns are also growing with reports of China rapidly advancing its military weapons and technology, at a scope that the U.S. has been left behind in the race. But Austin was confident that was not the case.

“China’s not 10 feet tall—this is America,” he declared.

“We have the greatest innovators in the world, and we will take the necessary steps to maintain our ability to innovate, to help us maintain a competitive edge into the future.”

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