U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said before a visit to India next week that the Trump administration wanted to "dramatically deepen" cooperation with New Delhi, seeing it as a key partner in the face of negative Chinese influence in Asia.
Speaking on Wednesday, less than a month before President Donald Trump is due to make his first state visit to China, Tillerson said the United States had begun to discuss creating alternatives to Chinese infrastructure financing in Asia.
In another comment likely to upset Beijing, he said Washington saw room to invite others, including Australia, to join U.S.-India-Japan security cooperation, something Beijing has opposed as an attempt by democracies to gang up on it.
The remarks coincide with the start of a week-long Chinese Communist Party congress at which President Xi Jinping is seeking to further consolidate his power.
"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 and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends," Tillerson told the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
"India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies," Tillerson added.