U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said before a visit to India next week that the Trump administration wanted to “dramatically deepen” cooperation with New Delhi, seeing it as a key partner in the face of negative Chinese influence in Asia.
Speaking on Wednesday, less than a month before President Donald Trump is due to make his first state visit to China, Tillerson said the United States had begun to discuss creating alternatives to Chinese infrastructure financing in Asia.
In another comment likely to upset Beijing, he said Washington saw room to invite others, including Australia, to join U.S.-India-Japan security cooperation, something Beijing has opposed as an attempt by democracies to gang up on it.
The remarks coincide with the start of a week-long Chinese Communist Party congress at which President Xi Jinping is seeking to further consolidate his power.
The U.S. decision to expand relations with India almost certainly will upset India’s rival, Pakistan, where Tillerson also will stop next week, said a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pakistan was the main U.S. ally in South Asia for decades, but U.S. officials are frustrated with what they charge has been Pakistan’s failure to cut support for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, where the administration wants India to play a bigger role in economic development.
As part of a South Asia strategy unveiled by Trump in August, Tillerson is expected to press Islamabad, which denies aiding the Taliban, to take stronger steps against extremists and allied groups and intensify efforts to pressure them to agree to peace talks with Kabul.
Trump has threatened further cuts in U.S. aid to Pakistan if it fails to cooperate.
China, a strategic rival to the United States and India, is also vital to Trump’s efforts to roll back North Korea’s efforts to create nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching the United States, an issue expected to top the agenda in Trump’s Nov. 8-10 Beijing visit.
A senior State Department official defended the timing of the speech, saying Tillerson also said he wanted a constructive relationship with China.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement that Beijing “contributes to and defends the rules-based world order” and seeks to enhance international cooperation.
Tillerson did not say what he meant by creating an alternative to Chinese infrastructure financing, but said the Trump administration had begun a “quiet conversation” with some emerging East Asian democracies at a summit in August.
He said Chinese financing was saddling countries with “enormous” debts and failing to create jobs.
Source: News agencies