New Pentagon chief says China's 'destabilizing behavior' is 'disturbing'

New Pentagon chief says China's 'destabilizing behavior' is 'disturbing'
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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday warned of China’s “destabilizing” behavior in the Indo-Pacific region.

The U.S. won’t “stand by idly while any one nation attempts to reshape the region to its favor at the expense of others, and we know our allies and partners will not either,” Esper said during a news conference in Sydney on Sunday.

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“We firmly believe no one nation can or should dominate the Indo-Pacific and we are working alongside our allies and partners to address the region’s pressing security needs,” he said alongside Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSchiff: Diplomacy with Iran 'only way out of this situation' Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran Buttigieg: Not too late for US to be 'constructive force' in Middle East MORE and their Australian counterparts after annual strategy talks between the two countries.

“We also stand firmly against a disturbing pattern of aggressive behavior, destabilizing behavior from China. This includes weaponizing the global commons using predatory economics and debt-for-sovereignty deals, and promoting state-sponsored theft of other nations’ intellectual property.”

Esper's admonishment of Beijing comes as U.S-Chinese tensions remain high.

President Trump this week threatened to place another 10 percent tariff on $300 billion in Chinese goods beginning on Sept. 1. The U.S. has longed accused China of intellectual property theft and currency manipulation.

That, combined with existing 25 percent penalties on $250 billion in goods, would impose levies on virtually all remaining Chinese imports.

Esper also seemed to reference China's increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea.

Beijing has built artificial islands as a way to lay claim to the international shipping zone.

The U.S. has made protecting sea lines of communication and global commons a key feature of its global strategy.

Australia, meanwhile, relies heavily on China, its biggest trade partner, in the economic well-being of its country.

Pompeo said both countries were “concerned about China’s militarization of their man-made islands in the South China Sea and we’re both keeping an eye on investment that mires our friends in debt and corruption.”

But he added that the Trump administration is “not asking nations to choose between the United States and China, because that’s not how we operate.”

Cooperation brings benefit to both, he added, “not zero-sum deals where one side wins and the other risks losing.”