US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks in Washington. Photo: CSIS
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks in Washington. Photo: CSIS

America’s top diplomat levied harsh criticism China’s way on Wednesday, while reiterating Washington’s commitment to deepening bilateral ties with India.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the remarks during a speech entitled “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century,” delivered at a think tank in Washington.

The speech, much of which was directed squarely at China, comes not just ahead of Tillerson’s state visit to India next week, but also on the opening day of China’s much-anticipated National Congress.

Saying that the US needs to help assure the Indo-Pacific region does not fall prey to “predatory economics,” Tillerson argued that China has undermined the international rules-based order.

“The very international order that has benefited India’s rise, and that of many others, is increasingly under strain. China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order. Even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nation’s sovereignty.”

Specifically, Tillerson singled out China’s actions in the South China Sea, saying they “directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for.”

“The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order. And where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries, it disadvantages the US and our friends.”

“It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising, and rising responsibly, for the next one hundred years,” Tillerson said. “Our open societies generate high-quality ideas at the speed of free thought.”

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