US doesn’t panic over China’s new military might

Senior U.S. defense officials admit recent Chinese military advancements, including testing of a hypersonic weapon system, are cause for concern, only Defense Secretary says if Beijing hopes to intimidate or frighten the United States, that is not happening.

“America is not a country that fears competition,” Lloyd Austin told government officials and defense companies in a speech later Saturday at the Regan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif.

“We are facing a formidable challenge,” he said in prepared remarks. “And we will face this one with confidence and determination, without panic or pessimism.”

Senior US military officials have repeatedly voiced concerns for months, warning that Beijing is “closing the gap” as it aims to overtake the United States as the world’s preeminent military power over the next decade .

Washington’s top military officer Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went so far as to compare China’s hypersonic test last July to Russia’s launch of the world’s first man-made satellite in the 1950s, which sparked the space race that dominated the following decades.

“I don’t know if it’s a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to it,” Milley told Bloomberg Television last month. “He has our undivided attention.”

A Pentagon report released last month on China’s military might concluded that Beijing is “increasingly willing to take on the United States and other countries in areas of divergent interests,” and warned that China would likely have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.

Only Defense Secretary Austin, returning from a trip to Seoul where he met his South Korean counterpart, sought to allay the growing anxiety in Washington and elsewhere.

At a joint press conference with South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook last Wednesday, Austin called China’s hypersonic test “a capability but certainly not the only one.”

“We have concerns,” he said, adding, “My job is to focus on the bigger picture. “

In remarks prepared on Saturday, Austin said the United States “has stepped up efforts” to counter China’s rise as a military power, seeking to invest more money in research and development and testing of new systems that will allow the United States to be far more deadly.

He also says that money is being spent on drones and stealth technologies, and that efforts are being made to ensure that existing weapon systems are more resilient, both against physical attacks and attacks from the military. cyberspace.

“When we maintain our technological lead, we maintain our military advantage,” according to Austin’s prepared remarks. “The United States has an advantage that no autocracy can match: our combination of free enterprise, free spirits and free people. “

The Austin-led Department of Defense also placed emphasis on closer ties with Indo-Pacific allies, which he stressed during his visit to Seoul and in a phone call. later with its Japanese counterpart.

But he says that the expansion of traditional alliances and new efforts such as AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) and Quad (US, Japan, India and Australia), should not be seen as the first steps of a new cold war. , this time opposing Washington to Beijing instead of Moscow.

“We are not looking for an Asian version of NATO or trying to build an anti-China coalition,” Austin said. “And we’re not asking countries to choose between the United States and China. “

“Instead, we are working to advance an international system that is free, stable and open,” he added.

But some of the talks surrounding strengthening US alliances angered Beijing.

Earlier this week, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Taiwan-based research organization that a potential Chinese military attack on Taiwan would be “a major danger to Japanese territory … and therefore an emergency for the alliance. Japanese-American ”.

In response, China summoned the Japanese ambassador for an emergency meeting.

A statement by Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Hua Chunying further criticized Abe’s remarks, saying they “openly challenge China’s sovereignty and cheekily support Taiwan’s independence forces.”

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