China and Russia are looking for “might makes right” world: US defense chief

China and Russia are looking for “might makes right” world: US defense chief


China and Russia are aiming for a world where force is used to settle disputes, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned Saturday, pledging that the United States will continue to uphold humanitarian principles and international law.

“Beijing, like Moscow, aspires to a world where might makes right, disputes are resolved by violence, and autocrats can snuff out the flame of liberty,” Austin told the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.

Moscow’s war on Kyiv “has underscored the challenge we face in the Indo-Pacific, where (China) is also pushing for something very far from our vision of a free, stable and open international system,” Austin said.

Chinese activity around Taiwan was becoming “increasingly provocative,” he said, with Beijing’s planes flying near the island almost daily and conducting a series of dangerous intercepts of US and allied planes.

Washington has identified China and its efforts to transform the Indo-Pacific region as the most momentous challenge facing the United States.

The US National Defense Strategy released last month also said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights the “imminent threats” that Moscow poses and that Washington wants to deter.

Austin linked the two challenges in his speech on Saturday, saying if one country gets away with violations, others will follow.

“There are still rules in war. And when a great power can flaunt those rules, it encourages others to flout international law and norms,” he said.

“We are determined to defend these rules – and in particular the fundamental principle of non-combatant immunity.”

Austin also said Moscow’s efforts to enlist support from countries like Iran and North Korea are creating new security challenges for the United States and its allies.

“Russia has turned to Iran and North Korea to support its attack on Ukraine, including using Iranian drones to kill Ukrainian civilians,” he said.

Washington said Iranian personnel are in Crimea helping Russia with drone strikes on Ukraine, which Tehran denies.

Austin said that Ukraine was facing a harsh winter and that Moscow might return to nuclear saber-rattling as it suffered battlefield casualties, promising the US and its allies would rise to those challenges.

“Russia’s invasion offers a preview of a possible world of tyranny and turmoil that none of us want to live in,” he said.

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