The United States has declared it is “not going anywhere” when it comes to its diplomatic and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and wants China to play by the rules.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel held talks with his Australian counterpart David Johnston in Sydney on Monday ahead of the Ausmin discussions involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday.
The meeting came after the ASEAN regional forum in Myanmar in which China rejected a motion calling for a moratorium on actions in disputed waters and arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Mr Hagel said China’s actions “speak for themselves” and the US was adamant that all of the countries involved in the South China Sea dispute needed to resolve their differences through international law.
“What we have supported is careful conduct, responsible conduct, by all nations regarding these disputes,” he told reporters in Sydney.
The US has about 200 ships and more than 360,000 military personnel in the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to five of America’s treaty obligation countries.
The US has marines rotating through Australia, and personnel and ships rotating through Singapore and the Philippines.
“We are not going anywhere,” Mr Hagel said.
“Our partnerships are here, our treaty obligations are here and are important to us.
“By any measurement of commitment it’s pretty clear the US is committed to this part of the world.”
The Ausmin partners will sign a new legal framework for the marine rotation.
There will also be discussions on a new ballistic missile defence system and developments in the region.