Secretary of State Antony Blinken touted on Tuesday a US strategy to deepen its Asian treaty alliances, offering to boost defence and intelligence work with partners in an Indo-Pacific region increasingly concerned over China’s “aggressive actions”. On a visit to Indonesia, Blinken called the Indo-Pacific the world’s most dynamic region, where everyone had a stake in ensuring a status quo that was without coercion and intimidation, making a barely veiled reference to China. He said the United States, its allies and some South China Sea claimants would push back against any unlawful action.

He said: “We’ll work with our allies and partners to defend the rules-based order that we’ve built together over decades to ensure the region remains open and accessible.

“Let me be clear: the goal of defending the rules-based order is not to keep any country down. Rather, it’s to protect the right of all countries to choose their own path, free from coercion and intimidation.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its own, despite some overlapping claims with other coastal states and a ruling by an international tribunal that its vast claim had no legal basis.

Beijing has rejected the US stance as interference from an outside power that could threaten Asia’s stability.

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