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Analysis: US military gets ‘laser targeted’ on keeping up with China

Austin issued the directive after receiving a categorized doc from a China Task Force he set up in February to look into the challenges posed to the United States by Beijing.

“The efforts I am directing today will improve the department’s ability to revitalize our network of allies and partners, bolster deterrence, and accelerate the development of new operational concepts, emerging capabilities, future force posture and a modernized civilian and military workforce,” Austin mentioned in a press release.

Specific steps beneath Austin’s plan are secret, however in testimony earlier than the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, the protection secretary mentioned the proposed $715 billion Defense Department price range focuses on “matching the pacing challenge that we clearly see from the People’s Republic of China,” so it contains “more than $5 billion dollars for the Pacific defense initiative” in 2022.

The Pacific protection initiative, known as the Pacific Deterrence Initiative in official Pentagon paperwork, is an try by Congress to “incentivize the Pentagon to better prioritize the region in its annual budget process,” Sens. Jim Inhofe and Jack Reed mentioned when advocating it final 12 months.

Overall, the five-year initiative goals to supply billions to improve US forces across the area, together with the Aegis Ashore missile protection system for Guam, new radar defenses for Hawaii; extra intelligence and reconnaissance belongings; extra munitions; extra Navy, Air Force and Marine troops within the area; and extra coaching and workout routines with allies and companions.

US military drones, helicopters, bombers and tankers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, perform an "Elephant Walk" April 13, 2020.

Questioned by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Arkansas, on whether or not the Defense Department was prioritizing China or distracted by different points akin to local weather change, Austin was adamant.

“The most significant military threat that we’re focused on — and you’ve heard me say this probably 100 times senator — is China,” Austin mentioned.

US military commanders say China is assembling an more and more offensive military and increasing its regional footprint, because it steps up efforts to supplant American military energy in Asia.

Flashpoints embody the South China Sea, the place Beijing has constructed and fortified man-made islands and deployed massive fleets of so-called maritime militia, and the democratically managed island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its sovereign territory and round which it has more and more moved military {hardware} over the previous 12 months.

Taiwan performed prominently in Thursday’s listening to, with Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, asking the highest US uniformed military chief if US forces might defend Taiwan within the occasion of a People’s Liberation Army invasion to take management of the island.

“I can assure you that we have the capabilities if there were political decisions made in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act,” mentioned Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in response to the senator.

Hawley is a staunch supporter of Taiwan and final 12 months launched the Taiwan Defense Act, a invoice that may require Washington to take care of the power to defeat a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The invoice died with out receiving a vote.

Though the Taiwan Relations Act — US legislation since 1979 — doesn’t state outright whether or not the US will intervene militarily ought to China assault the island, it does mandate that Washington “maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan,” in addition to offering Taipei with defensive weaponry.

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The US military’s capacity to defend Taiwan has come beneath growing scrutiny as China has constructed up and modernized its military, together with including platforms and weaponry US military leaders have described as aggressive in nature.

“I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they’re putting in the field unless it is an aggressive posture,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the then head of US Indo-Pacific Command, mentioned in testimony earlier than the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.

Milley instructed senators on Thursday taking Taiwan by drive could be no straightforward feat for China’s People Liberation Army.

“If you’re talking about a military invasion in Taiwan, crossing the straits, the Taiwan straits with a sizable military force to seize an island the size of Taiwan against the military that they have, and the population that they have, that’s an extraordinarily complex and difficult operation if, against an unopposed force, that’s a very hard thing to do,” Milley mentioned.

But Hawley pushed the final on whether or not the US might militarily block an invasion of Taiwan if Taipei couldn’t resist on its personal.

“Yes,” Milley replied.

While Taiwan was a spotlight in Thursday’s listening to, a report from a outstanding Washington suppose tank earlier within the week cautioned that the US might want to take a broader method to countering growing Chinese affect in Asia and globally.

“As the competition intensifies, US military planners may need to expand the portfolio of possible contingencies involving China beyond such traditional hotspots as Taiwan,” mentioned the report, titled “China’s Quest for Global Primacy,” from researchers on the RAND Corp.

The report argues, as an example, that the US should keep affect within the Middle East, Africa and Latin America or see China step in.
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“Chinese success in establishing itself as a principal arbiter in Middle Eastern affairs, as the main sponsor of Africa’s economic development, and as a major partner in Latin America could result in a severe weakening in the strategic position of the United States as a global leader and undercut its position in the Indo-Pacific theater as well,” the report says.

But the RAND report additionally mentioned the US maintains robust benefits that it ought to nurture, together with supporting allies and companions.

“The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) remains an unattractive partner for many countries, especially in Asia,” the report mentioned.

“And the (Chinese) military’s lack of power-projection capabilities limits its ability to provide the public security goods that helped make US global leadership so successful,” it mentioned.

And that goes again to Austin’s China Task Force suggestions.

“The most noticeable effort for service members will probably be in outreach to allies and partners. Military-to-military relationships are part of this outreach and there will be more exercises with allies and partners,” a Defense Department report on the duty drive mentioned.

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