Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, in her first public remarks since she was sworn in, called China’s military increasingly capable, saying its “aggressive” actions posed a threat to regional peace, stability in the Pacific and the “rules-based international order.“
In a virtual speech to National War College students Friday, Hicks said the Defense Department under President Joe Biden would be focused on ensuring the U.S. military was able to meet the challenge represented by China.
The United States will need “to demonstrate the will and capability to credibly deter PRC aggression,” Hicks said, and confronting the challenge posed by China also would require discarding weapons programs that were no longer relevant to the new strategic reality.
Her portrayal of China echoed comments by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during a testy exchange with their Chinese counterparts late on Thursday in Alaska.
“Beijing has demonstrated increased military competence and a willingness to take risks, and it has adopted a more coercive and aggressive approach to the Indo-Pacific region,” Hicks said, noting that China had escalated tensions with numerous neighbors in 2020.
The concern is not new. Dating back to 1997, Pentagon strategy papers had forecast that the United States could face a strategic challenge from China by 2015, Hicks said. “This competition was not preordained or inevitable, but it was certainly predictable,” she said.
Hicks said America’s global network of alliances and partnerships were a crucial strategic advantage for the United States, and that adversaries were seeking to weaken those ties.
“The ability of the United States to pursue common economic and security goals with other nations is the cornerstone of our success, which is why rivals are attempting, actively, to undermine trust in us,” she said.