China has refused to attend a meeting of defence chiefs from the Indo-Pacific region designed to bolster connections.
Military leaders from 26 nations are participating in the conference in Sydney, Australia. China was invited but said it would be unable to attend.
In the absence of China, the United States has labelled China as a nation becoming more aggressive and confrontational.
In the last month, the Australian air force has had encounters with the Chinese air force, while a recent Australian naval vessel had a tense interaction with a Chinese military vessel.
United States chairman of the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said the military leaders are focused on the whole situation with the rise of China, a free and open Pacific and ensuring a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region.
“It’s a big conference to coordinate our mutual security interests and discuss national security issues that apply to all of us,” said Gen Milley.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Gen Milley and Australia’s chief of defence General Angus Campbell said the chiefs of defence discussed how they can cooperate more and make their militaries more interoperable, including with advanced technologies.
The comments by General Milley showed the preparedness of the US and their concern that China would interfere in the region.
He warned that Chinese intercepts of allied and partner aircraft in international airspace in the Pacific region have increased several-fold over the last five years, and labelled Beijing’s behaviour much more confrontational than five to 15 years ago, raising the question about whether this is a scenario the Pacific nations have warned against.
Gen Campbell said the resolve to work with Indo-Pacific partners to enhance resilience and ensure all nations are empowered to make sovereign choices was emphasised by all leaders.
The military leaders have highlighted the importance of deep and enduring investment in the Indo Pacific, working closely with regional partners on issues that matter to them.
They acknowledged the importance of enhancing engagement on climate change.
The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to evolving the Alliance, ensuring it can meet the changing strategic environment and support stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare during the China-Solomon Islands deal fiasco stated that the last thing the Pacific wanted was a war where the Pacific nations would be forced to take a side.
The conference also coincides with the massive Rim of the Pacific naval exercise going on near Hawaii. RIMPAC is the world’s largest maritime exercise and is hosted by the U.S.
The meeting also shows that the US military presence in the Pacific has increased drastically since May.