Secretary of Defense Austin answers questions during the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue > U.S. Department of Defense > Transcript

Mr. CHIPMAN: I will turn to the ground. Take three or four in a group. First, from the Republic of Korea, Chung Min Lee.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. My question is this: as we speak, Russian and Chinese bombers are intruding into the Korean and Japanese air defense identification zones and, therefore, one of the reasons why, at the end of this month, at the summit in Madrid, the leaders of Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will participate in the NATO summit for the first time. What can your close allies here in the region do to strengthen European security and vice versa? Thanks a lot.

M. CHIPMAN: If you like…

SECOND. AUSTIN: I didn’t hear the end of it. What could we do to…

Q: My question was: what can your four closest allies in the region do to strengthen European security, as the leaders of Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will attend the NATO in Madrid in June?

SECOND. AUSTIN: Well, there — I mean, there’s — first of all, the countries in this region, as you heard me say earlier, have been very supportive of the effort in Europe up until now. They have provided – a number of countries have provided security assistance and other countries have provided humanitarian assistance. And that’s very, very important.

You have seen me bring together defense ministers from around the world to focus on the things we can do to continue to help Ukraine as it struggles to defend its sovereign territory. And I say fight, but quite frankly, we are all proud of the work done by Ukrainians. They are absolutely inspiring in terms of their commitment to their democracy, their willingness to defend their land, and I think there are great lessons for all of us in terms of commitment.

But, again, I will organize another one of these meetings in about a week when I go to Brussels. We started with 40 countries contributing capacity. He expanded the following meeting to 47 countries and now it is over 50 countries. And that shows you how much the world community cares about this issue and how much the countries of the world want to help Ukraine in its efforts to defend its sovereign territory.

Mr. CHIPMAN: Thank you very much. And then, from the United States, Bonnie Glaser. If you can also raise your hand. It looks like your microphone is working. Way ahead, Bonnie.

Q: Thank you, Secretary Austin. The most dangerous potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific is a war in the Taiwan Strait that would result from a Chinese attempt to seize Taiwan by force. And President Biden recently said, repeated in fact, that he would defend Taiwan if attacked. What steps should the United States, our allies, and Taiwan take to enhance deterrence so that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait can be preserved? Thanks.

SECOND. AUSTIN: Thank you, Bonnie. First of all, you’ve heard me say and heard a number of our – a number of leaders, senior leaders say that we think any unilateral change to the status quo is – would be unwelcome and ill-advised. I would simply like to point out that our policy towards Taiwan has not changed. We remain committed to the one-China policy, and we also remain committed to providing Taiwan with the military means to defend itself in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.

And so, I know that countries in the region and around the world are really focused on this issue, but I really want to, as I said in the — in my remarks here, really point out that our policy in Taiwan is not hasn’t changed.

MR CHIPMAN: And from the Philippines, again, raise your hand, Jeffrey Urdiniao, but it looks like your microphone is working, so go ahead.

Q: Thank you for this opportunity. When China started building man-made islands in the South China Sea, the United States said there would be consequences. China has completed these artificial islands. The United States has also said there will be consequences if China militarizes these islands. China has militarized these islands anyway, stationing bombers and fighter jets. So I guess a lot of us here are curious, what will be different about the Biden administration’s approach to the South China Sea, because it seems the current policy does not work or at least does not change the behavior of China? Thanks.

SECOND. AUTIN: Yes. So some of the consequences we’ve seen are that we’ve seen allies and partners come together and work together more deliberately to ensure that they have the ability to protect their interests and their territory on the waters. And I see – and we have seen, again, over the past two years, that the ties continue to grow stronger. We’ve also seen, you know, like-minded countries come together to create new capabilities.

So the effect was that — it had an effect. There are consequences and those consequences are a much more united region. A region that is increasingly focused on a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. So I think — I think there were consequences.

Mr. CHIPMAN: And then from Singapore, Lin Kook. To chase.

Q: Thanks, John. Thank you, Secretary Austin. Yesterday Prime Minister Kishida warned that the Ukraine of today could be East Asia tomorrow. Do you share the concern of the Japanese Prime Minister? And if so, why ? Could it be because of a general feeling that Ukraine is reminding us that war anywhere is possible and that we should not be complacent or perhaps because the United States has concrete concerns about that China is like Russia because both are autocracies and will therefore act like it?

SECOND. AUSTIN: I would say – I think this is the first one that, you know, anything is possible and so – I mean, there’s a reason why we have, you know, military to defend our sovereign territory. And so, we have to be aware that these armies, our defenses need the — need the right kinds of capabilities. I come back to what I have – to the questions I asked earlier.

Are the rules important? Does sovereignty matter? You know, is this rules-based international order important to us? I think the answer to this question is yes. I think it was remarkable to see the global reaction to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. There are strong indications across the world – around this globe that countries around the world truly value the rules-based international order and respect for that order. So I think there’s a – there’s a powerful lesson there.

Mr. CHIPMAN: Franz Stefan Gaddy, last question?

Q: Thanks, John. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned game-changing technologies in your speech. Could you perhaps elaborate on what specific technologies you have in mind here, and further, do you foresee any changes in the posture of US forces in the region as a result of these game-changing technologies in the short to medium term? Thanks.

SECOND. AUSTIN: Thank you, Franz Stefan. I won’t go into the details of emerging technologies, only to say that we continue to invest a significant part of our budget, our defense budget. You heard me say $130 billion spent on RDT&E, research and development. We believe that to stay relevant, we need to make sure we’re investing in the right kinds of things to support the operational concepts that we think are important in any conflict – that we’ll employ in any conflict in the future.

I would just say that it is important for us to continue to work with our allies and partners as we develop these technologies. And you heard me commit to doing that in my remarks and we’re serious about it. And so – but I don’t – I won’t develop any of the specific technologies in this forum.

MR CHIPMAN: So we closed this session on our clock with two seconds left. I want to thank you very much, Secretary Austin, and also to say that we should actually take some comfort in the fact that you can’t say much about emerging technologies that you could say with allies and partners, as this implies these technologies will be extremely valuable for their security and for the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. I have 33 people on the list, a few people are still waving, but it’s inevitable in a session like this, especially with the US Secretary of Defense, that there are more questions than time available to answer. Rest assured that I will welcome you for the next session, but in the meantime, please thank Secretary Austin for his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Thanks a lot.