Fri. May 20th, 2022

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned that China’s repeated transmissions of fighter jets, bombers and other warplanes near Taiwan appeared to be rehearsals for military operations against the country.

“It looks a lot like they’re exploring their true capabilities and certainly it looks a lot like rehearsals,” Austin said in a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum that focused on China’s threat.

Austin apparently did not suggest that China prepare for conflict in the near future. But this year, the Chinese air force has significantly increased the scale and frequency of flights in Taiwan’s “air defense identification zone”.

The military activity, together with rapid progress by the People’s Liberation Army, expressed concern about China’s intentions with Taiwan over which it claims sovereignty. Some experts believe China’s recent rapid expansion of its core arsenal is designed to make it harder for the US to intervene in any conflict over Taiwan.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Reuters on Friday that a Chinese invasion would have “terrible consequences” and stressed that Washington was absolutely committed to ensuring that Taipei could defend itself. Lloyd spoke at the event in California and declined to say how the U.S. would respond to China that invaded the island.

“We are committed to helping Taiwan develop and maintain its ability to defend itself,” he said. “No one wants to see it develop into a conflict in this region, so we are going to do everything in our power to prevent conflict and lower the temperature where possible.”

Austin spoke in California on his way back from Seoul where he and his South Korean counterpart for the first time included language on maintaining peace in the Straits of Taiwan in a communication, which raised growing concerns in the Indo-Pacific illustrate about China.

President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden last month that any country that supports pro-independence forces in Taiwan is “playing with fire,” which illustrates the interests. But the Chinese leader also said he was “patient” and wanted to strive for peaceful reunification, which some US experts saw as an attempt to lower the temperature.

In his speech, Austin said that the US faced real challenges that included “the emergence of an increasingly assertive and autocratic China”.

He said China was expanding its capacity to project power and to build a global network of military bases. He added that the Chinese military was rapidly advancing its capabilities in areas ranging from missile and missile defense to anti-submarine technology. He also noted that the Pentagon believes that China will quadruple its stockpile of nuclear weapons to more than 1,000 warheads by 2030.

Austin said Washington would work more closely with allies to counter China, but said it also wanted to see better communication channels with Beijing to help manage risks, including in the area of ​​nuclear weapons.

Austin and Mark Milley, chairmen of the US Chiefs, have not held talks with their Chinese counterparts since the beginning of the Biden administration. The Pentagon hopes that the recent virtual meeting between Biden and Xi will pave the way for better communication between the two armies.

In his speech, Austin also called on firms in the U.S. private sector to work more closely with the Pentagon to develop the latest technology. But he acknowledged that the military needed to do a better job of streamlining its bureaucracy and becoming less risk-averse to make sure entrepreneurs did not see it as the “valley of death”.

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