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U.S. Defense Secretary Urges Chinese ‘Restraint’ on Hong Kong

Gregory Viscusi

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said China shouldn’t intervene forcibly in Hong Kong and warned European countries against becoming too dependent on Chinese investment.

“We would obviously urge restraint and not to act, and to sit down and talk with the protesters and resolve the differences,” Esper said at a press conference in Paris with his French counterpart Florence Parly.

“As countries increase their dependence on Chinese investment and trade they become more susceptible to coercion and retribution when they act outside Beijing’s wishes,” Esper said. “It is essential that all countries make well-informed decisions about their relationship with the Chinese.”

Esper and Parly downplayed their recent differences over France’s refusal to join a naval force put together by the U.S. to protect shipping in the Gulf following a series of attacks on oil tankers. Britain joined the U.S. force while other European countries such as Germany said they’d work with the French on a mission that’s more geared toward surveillance.

Parly said the separate European initiative was “totally coordinated and in full transparency with our American friends. The idea is to rally the highest number of countries. There is no competition.”

Esper said the U.S. force is “about deterring bad behavior in the Gulf and assuring freedom of navigation. Our preference is that all countries join this broader umbrella but the key thing is that all countries work together to defend these common values and rights, and defend them whether it is from Iran trying to violate them, or if is from China in the South China Sea.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, James Cone, James Amott

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