WASHINGTON [US/ANI] While reiterating the threat posed by China to the US, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin on Tuesday (local time) said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he will operationalise India’s “Major Defence Partner” status and build upon the US-India existing strong defence cooperation.
“If confirmed, my overarching objective for our defence relationship with India would be to continue elevating the partnership. I would further operationalise India’s “Major Defence Partner” status and continue to build upon existing strong defence cooperation to ensure the U.S. and Indian militaries can collaborate to address shared interests,” Austin said in a written statement to the US Senate.
He further said, “I would also seek to deepen and broaden our defence cooperation through the Quad security dialogue and other regional multilateral engagements.”
Speaking on the US force presence in the Middle East, he said, “I will review our force presence to ensure it is properly balanced to address the broad range of challenges in the Middle East – including from China and Russia – with global requirements and the health of the joint force.”
While viewing both Russia and China as a threat to the US, he, however, emphasised that China is of top priority because of its “ascent and the scope and scale of its military modernisation”.
On the threat being posed by China, Austin said that Beijing has “made it clear that it expects the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be a global military actor that is able to secure China’s growing overseas interests and advance other PRC objectives abroad.”
“I assess that the rapid development and operational focus of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) constitutes a significant and long-term security threat to the United States and to our allies and partners. This threat is an outgrowth of nearly two decades of intense efforts by China to modernise and reform the PLA and other forces into an increasingly capable joint force able to conduct the full range of military operations across every warfighting domain,” he said.
He further said that the PLA is increasing its capabilities and concepts to conduct “information, cyber, space, and counter space operations”.
“China has also made it clear that it expects the PLA to be a global military actor that is able to secure China’s growing overseas interests and advance other PRC objectives abroad. These changes are coupled with the PRC’s aggressive and at times coercive activities aimed at advancing its military influence through forging closer ties with foreign militaries, attaining overseas military bases, and expanding the PLA’s presence worldwide,” he said.
Reiterating the importance of China and Russia in US’ Defence strategies, he said, “The continued erosion of US military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, in key strategic areas, remains the most significant risk the Department must address. If left unchecked, this continued erosion could fundamentally challenge our ability to achieve US national security objectives – and limit DoD’s ability to underpin the other U.S. instruments of power.”
Speaking on the changes he will be making in the 2018 National Defence Strategy (NDS), the incoming Defence Secretary said that he will be taking a comprehensive strategic view amid the changes in the global security environment.
He said, “There are notable changes occurring in the global security environment that warrant the deeper evaluation, and which should compel DoD to periodically reexamine and update the strategy and its path to implementation. For example, the pace of China’s military modernisation, its increasingly aggressive actions in the INDO-PACIFIC and its ability to threaten the US Homeland are concerning and must be continually reexamined.”
Besides China and Russia, the incoming Defence Secretary has viewed Iran and North Korea as countries that pose a threat to the US.
“DoD, in concert with our interagency and international partners and allies, will play a crucial role in deterring Chinese and Russian aggression, while still contending with threats emanating from Iran and North Korea and countering terrorism,” he highlighted.
He, however, added that he will also address risks to the US Homeland, including demands for defence support to civil authorities.