Ahead of the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, a top admiral of the US Navy has tried to assure Asian countries, which have maritime concerns with Beijing, against rising China in the Asia Pacific region.
While claiming that the US and its like-minded nations have disagreements over ideologies with China, Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet believes that "the strength of partnerships with values (that like-minded nations share) will be what keeps the nations in the region secure."
"I said we were in competition with China, but that does not mean conflict," Aquilino said in Bangkok during a visit on Friday while criticising Beijing over the South China Sea.
The Admiral said that Beijing had built features in the South China Sea, in defiance of international law, that have a military purpose and "ultimately coerce and bully nations in the region."
The US claims that it is defending freedom of navigation under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – an international convention which was not even ratified by Washington.
"The meeting will focus on deepening bilateral strategic and defence co-operation, exchanging perspectives on global developments, our shared leadership in the Indo-Pacific region," the US state department said on Thursday 12 December, referring to the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
Beijing has yet to react to the move.
Indian analyst Kashish Paripiani said that under the Trump administration, the nature of US arms exports to India seems to have assumed a singular focus on exporting Mahanian thinking – towards the aim of "socialising" India into an active naval role in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific at-large.
"Hence, at the upcoming ministerial dialogue, transfer of crucial naval platforms is expected to be furthered," Paripiani added.
China and its neighbours, including Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan have laid claim to portions of the South China Sea, often overlapping one another, and causing political and military tensions.
China controls the vast majority of the sea area and has established military outposts and air bases in the region by building artificial islands. Beijing and Manila have conflicting claims over the Reed Bank, an 8,850 sq. Km area of the South China Sea, northeast of the Spratly Islands, west of the Philippines where much of the region's known oil and gas reserves are based, and where Chinese and Philippine vessels have clashed repeatedly over fishing rights.