Esper Shares U.S. Vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region
(Source: US Department of Defence; issued Aug 26, 2020)
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper arrived in Hawaii, beginning a trip to explain America's vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to honor the World War II generation that made a peaceful region possible.

The Indo-Pacific is the main focus of American national strategy. The region is crucial to the U.S. economy, and U.S. service members are crucial to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

The National Defense Strategy issued in 2018 said the return of great power competition with China and Russia is the main danger to the United States and the world.

''This is an opportunity for the secretary to really reinforce what we're doing to advance this vision for a free Indo-Pacific,'' said a senior defense official speaking on background. ''The vision is based on some broadly held principles — peaceful resolution of disputes; freedom of navigation; free, fair and reciprocal trade arrangements — the things that have kind of made the international system work.''

In the Indo-Pacific, China is challenging these principles. China is building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea. China is using its economic power to coerce nations around the world to its point of view.

Esper will talk about what the United States is doing to reinforce and uphold the principles of the international rules-based order.

During the visit, the secretary will visit ships involved in the semi-annual Rim of the Pacific exercise. The exercise has been scaled back due to COVID-19, but more than 5,000 personnel from 10 different countries are participating. The exercise allows the nations to test interoperability and cooperation across the spectrum of conflict.

RIMPAC also highlights the alliance system in the Indo-Pacific. ''Even during the current pandemic, we're still able to operate in pursuit of common tasks,'' the official said.

Guam is a centerpiece of American strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and Esper will visit with troops and visit facilities that are being built.

The secretary will also participate in ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. He will visit Palau – the site of the bloody Battle of Peleliu in 1944 — and mark the end of the war during a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. The Japanese signed the surrender documents aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

World War II still resonates today. The experiences of the war – with millions killed, untold treasure destroyed and huge upheaval – was the impetus behind establishment of the rules-based international order as a means of preventing the type of great power competition that brought on the war. Those rules are still important 75 years later, officials said, and they need to be protected.

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Expert: US Defense Secretary's Hyping Up "PLA Threat" is Very Vicious
(Source: China Military Online; issued Aug 26, 2020)
At a time when the China-US game is becoming increasingly fierce, US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper wrote a signed article published by the Wall Street Journal on August 24 titled "The Pentagon Is Prepared for China", saying that the US is strengthening its defense capabilities in an all-round manner to deal with the military threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party. He also called on all countries to carefully consider whether it’s safe to have any dealings with the PLA.

In the article, Esper said: “China’s People’s Liberation Army celebrated its 93rd anniversary Aug. 1 with a speech by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Once again, Mr. Xi called for transforming the PLA into a world-class military, one that can further the party’s agenda far beyond China’s shores. He also claimed: “The PLA is not a military that serves the nation, let alone a constitution, as the U.S. armed forces do. The PLA belongs to—and serves—a political entity, the Chinese Communist Party.”

Therefore, he made an appeal in this regard, "As a consequence, all nations that seek the prosperity and security of a free and open order must carefully consider the implications of PLA requests for access, training and technology.”

Li Haidong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, said on August 25 that Esper’s signed article once again repeated the consistent strategy of the mainstream US policy towards China, namely, attacking the Communist Party of China, China’s ruling party, and the Chinese military, both of which are the cornerstone key to safeguarding the stability in China. Esper’s move is highly targeted and vicious.

In July 2020, Esper said that he looked forward to visiting China this year, and this has been interpreted by some observers as a goodwill gesture. However, Li Haidong believed that Esper’s previous statement is not in contradiction with his current one.

"More than a month ago, Esper sent a message that although the US wants to engage in division and confrontation in the security field, it does not intend to have a direct showdown. Therefore, under the tense situation in the South China Sea, it needs to manage the crisis with China to avoid war,” Li said. “However, the US has not changed its long-term strategic goal of shaping the global landscape through long-term military contests and making China feel suffocated."

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