China’s growing assertiveness in Asia is pushing other countries to strike new partnerships with the U.S., the Pentagon’s No. 2 official said, rejecting Beijing’s claim that the U.S. push to deepen ties destabilizes the region.

Chinese actions "have only strengthened a desire from countries in the region and beyond the region to make sure they can secure their interests,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in an interview. "We think that is helpful to deterrence, but also to creating stability in the region.”

Hicks cited a new base-sharing agreement with the Philippines, enhanced defense cooperation with South Korea and Japan and the AUKUS alliance with the UK and Australia as examples of the U.S. push.