US Defense Secretary warns China to ‘rehearse’ to attack Taiwan

Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, warned that China’s repeated sorties of fighter jets, bombers and other warplanes near Taiwan appear to be rehearsals for operations. militarily against this country.

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

Austin does not seem to suggest that China is preparing for conflict in the near future. But the PLA Air Force this year has significantly increased the size and frequency of sorties into Taiwan’s “air defense identification zone”.

Military operations, along with the rapid advances of the People’s Liberation Army, has raised concerns about China’s intentions towards Taiwan, which it claims. Some experts believe that China recently rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal designed to make it difficult for the United States to intervene in any conflict over Taiwan.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, told Reuters on Friday that a Chinese invasion would have “terrible consequences” and stressed that Washington was absolutely committed to ensuring Taipei could defend itself. Speaking at the event in California, Lloyd declined to say how the US would respond to China’s invasion of the island.

“We are committed to helping Taiwan develop and maintain a self-defence capability,” he said. “Nobody wants to see this develop into conflict in this region, so we will do everything in our power to help prevent conflict and reduce temperatures wherever possible.”

Austin was speaking in California on his way back from Seoul, where he and his South Korean counterpart first put the language of peacekeeping in the Taiwan Strait in a statement, illustrating today’s concerns. increasing in the Indian Ocean towards China.

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

In his speech, Austin said that the United States faces real challenges including “the emergence of an increasingly assertive and autocratic China.”

He said China is expanding its ability to deploy forces and build a global network of military bases. He added that the Chinese military is rapidly enhancing its capabilities in areas ranging from missile and missile defense to anti-submarine technology. He also noted that the Pentagon believes China will quadruple its nuclear arsenal to more than 1,000 warheads by 2030.

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

Austin and Mark Milley, the president of the US consortium, have not held any conversations with their Chinese counterparts since the start 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 militaries of the two countries.

In his speech, Austin also called on US private-sector companies to work more closely with the Pentagon to develop innovative technologies. But he acknowledged that the military must do a better job of streamlining bureaucracy and becoming less risky to ensure businessmen don’t see it as a “valley of death.”

Monitor Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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