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China coercing neighbours to reorder Indo-Pacific region to its advantage, says Pentagon

Press Trust of India, Washington, Feb 13 2018, 15:08 IST
Protestors display placards during a rally by Leftwing activists outside the Chinese Consulate, to protest Beijing's continued reclamation activities in the South China Sea, in Makati, Metro Manila in the Philippines. REUTERS

Protestors display placards during a rally by Leftwing activists outside the Chinese Consulate, to protest Beijing's continued reclamation activities in the South China Sea, in Makati, Metro Manila in the Philippines. REUTERS

China is "coercing" its neighbours to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to its advantage, the Pentagon has told Congress amid Beijing flexing its muscles in the East and South China Seas.

As China continues its economic and military ascendance, asserting power through an all-of-nation long-term strategy, it will continue to pursue a military modernisation programme that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the US to achieve global preeminence in the future, the Pentagon said.

"China is leveraging military modernisation, influence operations and predatory economics to coerce neighbouring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage," it said in its annual defence budget for the fiscal 2019.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the East China Sea, too, with Japan.

Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.

Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade.

The most far-reaching objective of America's defence strategy is to set the military relationship between the US and China on a path of transparency and non-aggression, the Pentagon said.

According to the Pentagon, the central challenge to the US prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers.

"It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model â gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic and security decisions," it said.

The Pentagon said Russia seeks veto authority over nations on its periphery in terms of its governmental, economic and diplomatic decisions to shatter the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and to change European and Middle East security and economic structures to its favour.

The use of emerging technologies to discredit and subvert democratic processes in Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine is concern enough, but when coupled with its expanding and modernising nuclear arsenal the challenge is clear.

"Rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran are destabilising their regions by pursuing nuclear weapons or sponsoring terrorism," the Pentagon said.

North Korea seeks to guarantee regime survival and increased leverage through a mixture of nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional and unconventional weapons and a growing ballistic missile capability to gain coercive influence over South Korea, Japan and the US.

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