US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August angered China, which subsequently began military exercises near the island. They continue, albeit, on a much smaller scale, the agency said.
“I don’t see an invasion coming,” Austin said in an interview broadcast on CNN.
“What we’re seeing is that China is trying to establish what we would call a new normal. Increased activity – we’ve seen a number of Taiwan Strait crossings by their aircraft. Over time, that number is increasing. We’ve seen more activity with their surface ships around Taiwan”.
The US and its allies responded to the exercises, with their warships continuing to routinely pass through the region. A US Navy warship and a Canadian frigate passed through the Taiwan Strait on September 20, Reuters recalled.
The US will continue to work with its allies and partners “to ensure that we maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Austin said in an interview with CNN that was taped on Friday.
We are working to reopen military communication channels with China, something that is critical for both countries, Austin said.
In August, China suspended cooperation with the US in a number of areas, including dialogue between top military commanders, in response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Austin said he had contact by phone and in person with his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who agreed that open communications were important.
“We’re going to do everything we can to continue to signal that we want those channels open, and I hope that China will start to lean forward a little bit more and work with us,” the US defense secretary said.