The top US admiral in the Pacific has said that if “the United States does not keep pace” with China’s investment in military technologies, the American military will eventually struggle to compete with Chinese armed forces.
China is a rapidly growing regional military power and is seeking to expand its global influence, Admiral Harry Harris told the House Armed Services Committee.
“If the US does not keep pace [Pacific Command] will struggle to compete with the People’s Liberation Army on future battlefields,” he said.
He added that China is using “military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics to coerce neighbouring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific to their advantage.”
“China’s intent is crystal clear,” Mr Harris said, suggesting that the nation’s is working to replace the US as the security partner of choice for countries in the region.
He continued: “We ignore it at our peril. These types of aspirational goals could be appropriate for a nation of China’s stature, but judging by China’s regional behaviour I am concerned that China will now work to undermine the rules-based international order, not just in the Indo-Pacific but on a global scale.”
On Wednesday, US intelligence chief Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “malign actors” like Russia and China would continue to use several tactics, such as cyber warfare, to challenge US influence around the globe.
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Last week, Mr Trump signed a bipartisan budget deal that significantly boosted defence spending.
The President on Wednesday, speaking of the budget agreement, said “we’re extremely happy with the bill that was passed,” because “it takes care of our military.”
“Our military will be in better shape than ever before,” the President added.
Mr Harris is Mr Trump’s pick for US ambassador to Australia. Appointed to lead the Pacific Command by former President Barack Obama, Mr Harris has taken a hard line against Chinese military expansion in the region, calling the nation “provocative”.
Mr Harris, 61, has spent 39 years in the Navy and is expected to be approved by the Senate. The US has been without an ambassador to Australia, a major ally, since 2016.