Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Pentagon: China now our biggest military threat

Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a review of troops from a car during a military parade. Picture: AFP.
Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a review of troops from a car during a military parade. Picture: AFP.
China presents the biggest military threat to the United States, according to a new strategic assessment by the Pentagon. It has been formally promoted to the top of a list of most dangerous rivals.
Mark Esper, the US Defence Secretary, has told military chiefs to recalibrate training and operations to match Beijing’s capabilities.
The military must make China “the pacing threat in all our schools, programs and training”, Mr Esper said in a message to Pentagon staff marking his first year in the role.

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“We are now in an era of great power competition and China, then Russia, constitute our top strategic competitors,” he added. In the 2018 national defence strategy delivered by James Mattis, his predecessor, China and Russia were on an equal footing as the “great power rivals” to the US.
Tension between the US and China has been rising, stoked by competing narratives over trade, intellectual property theft and hacking, as well as Chinese influence campaigns, counterintelligence and Beijing’s military activities in the Pacific.
US sailors receive a safety brief on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey during exercises in the South China Sea. Picture: AFP.
US sailors receive a safety brief on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey during exercises in the South China Sea. Picture: AFP.
Congress has passed sanctions on China over the repression of minority groups in Xinjiang and its crackdown in Hong Kong. The State Department has announced visa bans on Chinese officials involved in abuses in Tibet, prompting reciprocal bans by Beijing.
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There are also tensions over China’s growing nuclear arsenal, with the Trump administration demanding that Beijing join its talks with Moscow to forge a multilateral arms treaty. Beijing said yesterday (Wednesday) the demands were a ruse for Washington to abandon the bilateral treaty but suggested it could take part if the US shrank its arsenal to the size of China’s, an offer President Trump would never accept.
In another sign of their growing co-operation, Russia and China announced on Wednesday that they had agreed to boost joint economic enterprises, including in energy and civilian aircraft manufacture after President Xi and President Putin spoke by phone.
Christopher Wray, the FBI director, warned on Tuesday that China was “engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary” and presented “the greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality”.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper speaks to the media. Picture: AFP.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper speaks to the media. Picture: AFP.
The economic damage wreaked by China’s intellectual property theft was “breathtaking”, he said and half of all counterintelligence investigations in the US involved China. “The stakes could not be higher,” he added.
Mr Esper said he had set up a special China strategy group to focus the Pentagon’s efforts on countering the growing threat.
In the past year all existing Pentagon war plans for countering China have been reviewed and updated after previous simulations judged China to have the upper hand in any naval confrontation in the Asia-Pacific region because of its huge inventory of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles.
The build-up of these missiles by the People’s Liberation Army is part of an “anti-access, area-denial” strategy to deter the US navy from sailing into the region in the event of a crisis, such as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or the seizure of more islands in the South China Sea.
Two aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, are operating in the South China Sea this week, flying fighter jet missions to underline America’s strike capabilities. A B-52H nuclear-capable bomber took part in exercises.
Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in 2019. Picture: AFP.
Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in 2019. Picture: AFP.
Mr Esper said the US military was now investing in “game-changing technologies”. These included hypersonic weapons capable of flying to targets at 20 times the speed of sound, as well as artificial intelligence and directed energy systems.
In an address to the Hudson Institute, Mr Wray warned that Chinese agents were using the cover of an anti-corruption program called Operation Fox Hunt to pursue dissidents living overseas including in the US.
“China describes Fox Hunt as some kind of international anti-corruption campaign. It is not. Instead, Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by [President] Xi to target Chinese nationals who he sees as threats and who live outside of China across the world,” Mr Wray said. “We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations.”
Mr Wray said that the campaign was active in countries across the globe where Chinese dissidents had settled, believing they would be beyond Beijing’s reach. He told of one who was given the choice of returning to China or killing themselves.
He said: “When it couldn’t locate one Fox Hunt target, the Chinese government sent an emissary to visit the target’s family here in the US. The message they said to pass on: the target had two options, return to China promptly or commit suicide.”
Coercive tactics also include threats against family members back in China. “Use your imagination. You’re not going to be far off,” Mr Wray said.
The Times

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