To counter China, Austin promises to consolidate alliances with others in the region

SIMI VALLEY, Calif .– Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said on Saturday that the Biden administration would push the two Pacifi...


SIMI VALLEY, Calif .– Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said on Saturday that the Biden administration would push the two Pacific allies and US businesses to step up efforts to counter the increasingly urgent threat from China, and that the Pentagon was ready to help Ukraine defend itself better against Russia as tensions erupt between the two of the countries.

“America is a powerhouse of the Pacific,” Austin said during a speech at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, the first face-to-face meeting of defense officials and experts since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. “We are not asking countries to choose between the United States and China. Instead, we are working to advance a free, stable and open international system. “

In one of his most landmark speeches since the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, chaotically ending America’s longest war, Mr. Austin has made little mention of the past two decades. US military efforts in the Middle East, instead focusing almost exclusively on Beijing, whose nuclear, cybernetic and economic gains have increasingly shaken US officials in three administrations.

He outlined his strategy for dealing with China, what he called “integrated deterrence,” which relies both on strengthening work with allies and partners in the region and on the fact that to push the American technology industry to stay one step ahead of Chinese innovations.

The Biden administration has carefully tried to insist that the United States is not in conflict with China and to recognize that competition between the two countries has intensified. President Biden has refused to lift tariffs initiated by the Trump administration and has continued push China to honor the commitments it made in a trade agreement signed agreement during the last days of the Trump administration.

Panel after panel on Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, military officials and experts in defense and national security sounded the alarm bells about China, including its growing military might and its attacks on the US satellite, as well as economic concerns such as the lack of skilled US workers to keep up with Chinese production and domination, especially in semiconductors.

“There is a real possibility that if we ever get into a conflict, you could see attacks on our electricity grid or our transportation sector,” warned Christine Wormuth, Secretary of the Army.

At the same time, speakers also expressed fear that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin could exploit the intense US focus on China to quietly pursue his own ambitions in his region.

New report from US intelligence agencies shows Russia drew up plans to eventually invade Ukraine with as many as 175,000 forces from the start of next year. Intelligence officials don’t believe Mr. Putin made the decision whether or not to attack Ukraine, but the threat of yet another invasion has grown more acute.

Mr Austin noted that Russia had already invaded Ukraine, a reference to 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and its military-led pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The current build-up of troops in the border region, along with Russian disinformation activity and cyber operations, are all cause for concern for the United States, Austin said.

“We remain focused on this,” Mr. Austin said. “We are certainly determined to help Ukraine defend its sovereign territory.”

The Biden administration has attempted to use concerns over Russian and Chinese intentions to bolster support among allies.

In his address, Austin stressed that the United States did not intend to build a new NATO for Asia. Instead, Washington is trying to better coordinate countries to block China’s efforts to dominate the region, he said, citing the recent deal to help Australia deploy nuclear submarines as an example of strengthening alliances. .

“They are moving towards their goals,” said David H. Berger, commander of the US Marine Corps, of China. “We have to operate differently.

The so-called challenge of stimulating China – a phrase often used in American political circles to refer to the nation’s ever-growing military threat – has become a largely bipartisan interest in Congress.

In June, the Senate overwhelmingly pass A bill to spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to spur scientific innovation to better compete with China, a level of investment that supporters say will be on par with spending in the era of the Cold War if the House follows suit.

There were roughly an equal number of Congressional Democrats and Republicans at the forum and all expressed similar concerns.

“We have to be there,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, who stressed the need to invest in partners in the region. Some Republicans, however, have criticized Mr. Biden’s policies towards China so far, especially regarding what they see as a lack of punitive measures on the country’s role in the pandemic. “President Biden has to be much more aggressive,” said Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa.

Although Austin said U.S. tech companies need to help the country stay ahead of Chinese know-how, he acknowledged that the Pentagon risks falling behind China in various areas if it does. couldn’t find ways to work better with Silicon Valley.

“The barriers to entry to work in national security are often just too steep,” Mr. Austin said.

Amid all the talk of future threats and partnerships among the throng of senior Pentagon officials, political experts, and business leaders, there was little thought about the past two decades of the Iraq war. and in Afghanistan.

Pressed after his speech about his regrets about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Austin was silent for several seconds, before saying he regretted the loss of the lives of Marines and civilians killed in a wandering drone strike. “I want to make sure that we do not lose sight of the fact that our American forces evacuated 124,000 people from Afghanistan in 17 days,” he added.

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Newsrust - US Top News: To counter China, Austin promises to consolidate alliances with others in the region
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