Workers smooth over an area outside the Pentagon in U.S. (Source: Bloomberg)

Pentagon’s Pacific Chief Warns About Heightened U.S.-China Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- The commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific said China’s “pernicious approach” to its Belt and Road initiative and increased militarization of the South China Sea is heightening tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

Speaking from Hawaii to a conference in Washington, Admiral Philip Davidson criticized Beijing’s “sustained campaign to intimidate other nations” in the region and said legitimate governments are ones that are chosen freely by its citizens “and are therefore accountable to their people.” The Belt and Road initiative, China’s vast, ambitious plan to promote economic development and project its influence across Asia and beyond, has been watched with increasing wariness by the U.S.

Davidson’s comments come just before President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping seek to resolve rising trade tensions during a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 gathering in Buenos Aires. The two leaders will have dinner on Saturday. It will be their first face-to-face encounter in more than 12 months, and could have a significant impact on the global economy for the coming year.

Turning to the Korean Peninsula, Davidson said U.S. readiness hasn’t been affected by suspended military exercises with South Korea, a move made to bolster the administration’s diplomatic outreach after Trump’s summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June.

Davidson also appeared to shrug off concerns about South Korea’s efforts to strengthen ties with the Pyongyang government despite international sanctions the U.S. has said must remain until North Korea abandons its nuclear program.

The U.S. is “quite confident in our alliance,” Davidson told participants at the Washington conference, organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.