China today dismissed as speculation reports about the US and Japan floating a strategic concept of a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, a phrase which a US official earlier said highlights the rise of India. Media reports about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump during their summit meeting yesterday reaching an agreement on the strategic concept of building a free and open Indo-Pacific region are “gas and speculation”, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here. “We have indeed noted that recently this concept has been mentioned many times,” she said replying to a question about reports of an agreement between Abe and Trump.
“I think that whatever concept or term is employed, we must by no means lose sight of such an objective fact: this region has grown into the most vibrant region with the greatest potential in the world and serves as a major engine for global economic growth,” she said, adding that maintaining the peace, stability and prosperity of this region is of great significance to the whole world. “We hope that the Asia-Pacific region can become a stable, prosperous and orderly region where consensus can be reached through consultation and where we are capable of managing differences and have the wisdom to resolve the disputes,” she said.
On November 5, the Trump administration defended the use of the “Indo-Pacific” phrase instead of “Asia Pacific”, saying it captures the importance of the rise of India with which the US has strong and growing ties. Indo-Pacific apparently refers to the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean regions. “We have strong and growing ties with India. We talk about ‘Indo-Pacific’ in part because that phrase captures the importance of India’s rise,” a senior White House official had said in Tokyo as Trump touched down in Japan, kicking off a marathon Asia tour.
Trump is due to arrive in China on a three-day visit tomorrow as part of the tour. “It (Indo-Pacific) captures the importance of the maritime free commons that allow our security and our prosperity to continue,” said the US official, responding to queries on the increasing use of the phrase “Indo-Pacific” by the Trump administration, its talk about free and open trade in the region and how the Chinese should regard that. “And the strategy is certainly not to contain China. Containment, certainly not,” the White House official said on condition of anonymity.