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Esper says multilateral fora help deter China's 'bad behavior'

Diplomacy 05:13 August 06, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that expanding multilateral partnerships with South Korea and other Asian nations can help deter China's "bad behavior" in the region.

Esper made the suggestion during the virtual Aspen Security Forum after pointing to Beijing's growing aggressiveness in the South China Sea.

"So many of the relationships, unlike Europe, in Asia are bilateral," he said. "U.S.-Korea, U.S.-Philippines, U.S.-Australia. We need to multilateralize those, maybe not officially ... but in terms of knitting things up so we talk more as a group. That's the best way to push back against China and its bad behavior in the Pacific, and I see that as another positive outcome, if you will, of us being unable to travel. We found new ways to communicate and to do it in a multilateral way, and I think we need to continue to advance that."

Esper was referring to the travel restrictions caused by COVID-19.

His remarks are in line with Washington's campaign to isolate Beijing militarily and economically amidst their growing rivalry.

Esper also said North Korea remains a challenge to the U.S., along with Iran and other countries.

This AFP file photo shows U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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