China unleashes growing fears in the US military

China’s military buildup and its push to develop nuclear-capable missiles are puzzling both Congress and U.S. defense officials.

The US defense establishment has seen threats from Beijing grow rapidly in multiple areas, including recent hypersonic missile tests, an expanding nuclear arsenal, advances in space and cyber, and seemingly daily threats to Taiwan.

“We are witnessing one of the greatest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has ever witnessed,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark milleyMORE he said on Wednesday talking about China’s recent military advances.

“They are clearly challenging us on a regional level and their aspiration is to challenge the United States on a global level.”

A possible shift in the global balance of power is concerning to US officials and lawmakers.

For decades, the United States has held the position of the world’s leading economic and military power. A shift to China, while not a direct threat, could shift alliances in the Indo-Pacific region at a time when the US and Chinese armies increasingly clash in the South China Sea.

Outgoing Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said last week that the rate at which China is developing military capabilities is “staggering” and is on track to overtake the United States “if we don’t do something to change.” that.”

An important example of the speed at which Beijing is moving was a test in August of a hypersonic weapon that partially orbited the Earth, re-entered the atmosphere and fired toward its target, which it did not hit for less than 30 miles.

Milley called the test “very worrying” and “very close” to being a “Sputnik moment,” referring to the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the world’s first space satellite that gave Moscow an advantage in the space race and shocked. To united states.

China has maintained that the test was “a spacecraft, not a missile.”

On Wednesday, Milley called the launch indicative of “a much, much broader picture of a military capability relative to the Chinese.”

“Today [China] it has capabilities in space and cyber, terrestrial, maritime, air, underwater, and they are clearly challenging us on a regional level. … So we have a case here of a country that is becoming extraordinarily powerful, that wants to revise the international order in its favor. That will be a real challenge for years to come. In the next 10, 20 years. That will be really important for the United States. “

That view was reflected in the latest Pentagon report on China’s military might, released on Wednesday, which details a country that is aggressively building its nuclear arsenal, developing new missile capabilities and beefing up its military, even amid the pandemic. of COVID-19.

“Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing continued its efforts to advance its overall development, including stabilizing its economic growth, strengthening its armed forces, and taking a more assertive role in global affairs,” according to the nearly 200 page report. .

China since 2018 has been named as the top defense threat to the country alongside Russia, but its latest breakthroughs caused Republicans in Congress this week to sound the alarm about its growing threat.

“We are in the most, I think, the most endangered position our country has ever been in terms of what China is clearly demonstrating what they have the ability to do,” a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe Oklahoma Governor Asks Pentagon To Remove Vaccine Mandate For National Guards Overnight Defense And National Security – Presented By Raytheon Technologies – Biden Backtracks On Taiwan Republican Lawmakers Fear Mandate of vaccines affect the defense supply chain MORE (R-Okla.) He said at a press conference on Tuesday.

And after the Pentagon report, Rep. Mike rogersMichael (Mike) Dennis Rogers A modern US-Russian policy must embrace realism and strategic humility Overnight Defense & National Security – Presented by Raytheon Technologies – Biden backs down on Taiwan Republican lawmakers fear the vaccine mandate will affect the chain defense supply MORE (R-Ala.), A senior member of the House Armed Services committee, said in a statement that the United States must respond to China with “unprecedented defense modernization.”

“This report should crystallize for the Biden Administration what has been clear for some time: that China represents a real and imminent threat. Kicking the road for our own military modernization is no longer an option, ”he continued.

Analysts have also taken notice of China’s growing nuclear capabilities, with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) releasing a report on Tuesday detailing three apparent missile silos that are under development in the cities of Yumen, Hami and Ordos.

Hans Kristensen, one of the authors of the FAS report, told The Hill that Washington should be more concerned about Beijing’s modernization of its armed forces on the conventional side, which does not involve nuclear weapons.

“Especially in relation to Taiwan, but of course also in the South China Sea. Because those are areas in which a conventional war could break out or crash, and from that situation an escalation towards the potential use of nuclear weapons could erupt, ”said Kristensen. “But of course it takes that conventional war to break out first.”

Experts and officials worry that China’s growing military might is indicative of plans to eventually seize control of Taiwan, the autonomous island that Beijing considers a rogue part of its territory.

That concern has grown in recent months as Beijing has stepped up its provocations against Taipei, bringing fighter jets into its aerial identification zone 150 times over the course of about four days in early October.

Since then, the presence of US forces on the island, including those destined to train Taiwanese troops, has been revealed.

Senior US military officials, including Milley, warned on numerous occasions this year that China could make an offer for the island in several years, a concern echoed by a senior Taiwanese security official on Thursday.

The director general of the Office of National Security, Chen Ming-tong, said China has considered attacking the Pratas Islands of Taiwan internally, but said it would delay action until 2024, according to Reuters.

And Milley said Wednesday that China probably wouldn’t make any moves in the near future, “but anything can happen.”

Complicating matters is Washington’s promise to help Taiwan defend itself in such an attack, that it is unclear what exactly it would do to deter China – a scenario that could spark a conflict between the two superpowers.

The United States has operated under a policy of “strategic ambiguity” with Taiwan, providing it with defensive weapons and allowing unofficial relations, but without supporting its independence.

President BidenJoe Biden Virginia’s defeat reveals Democrats’ struggle with rural voters After victory, Biden seeks political rebound Sunday shows progress: House passes bipartisan infrastructure bill; Democrats suffer electoral losses in Virginia MORE On October 21, he appeared to take a firmer stance when he said that the US government has a “commitment” to protect Taiwan, but the White House quickly backed down and said that US policy was not changing.

It remains to be seen how the Pentagon intends to address the challenge, but it will likely feature heavily in its forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review, part of the Biden administration’s National Defense Strategy, as well as in its Upcoming Missile Defense Review. .

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