On Wednesday, September 2, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke from the deck of the USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor. He made indirect comments on the threat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has posed to international order since World War II with Japan’s unconditional surrender.

The occasion marked the V-J Day ceremony honoring World War II veterans.

“We built relationships with like-minded nations based on reciprocal trade—not predatory economics—based on respect for the sovereignty of all countries, not a strategy of ‘might makes right,'” Esper said.

According to the Washington Examiner, while the official made no direct mention of China, he did use discrete terminology to refer to the latest movement in the Pacific to strengthen and build American alliances to contain Chinese aggression.

“Today, in the face of new challenges to this free and open order, we are working to build an even broader coalition of partners,” Esper said, referring to the Pacific alliance between the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
The defense secretary mentioned recent border clashes between China and India and recalled the joint naval exercises with India in July.

He also spoke of the Pacific island nations, which would provide vital access to the region for U.S. troops in a conflict with China.

“Growing, deepening, and unifying this network must remain central to our collective strategy to ensure peace and prosperity for another 75 years and beyond,” Esper told the Washington Examiner.

For his part, Admiral Phil Davidson of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spoke with Esper and expressed concern about the threat posed by the CCP to the region. He said that “an emboldened Communist Party of China seeks to change the world to one in which Chinese national power is more important than international law.

According to the South China Morning Post last month, Esper called on the Indo-Pacific region countries to work together to counter China more effectively.

“The Indo-Pacific is the epicenter of a great power competition with China,” Esper said. “We’re not going to cede this region—an inch of ground if you will to another country,—any other country that thinks their form of government, their views on human rights, their views on sovereignty, their views on freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, all those things, that somehow that’s better than what many of us share,” he added.