A day after Chinese diplomats traded angry barbs with their U.S. counterparts in face-to-face meetings in Alaska, new Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on Friday lashed out at Beijing during a virtual speech at the National War College in Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Hicks, the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, said China’s policies and recent actions constitute a threat to regional stability and to the rules-based international order. She stressed the common refrain in the Biden administration that China is the “pacing challenge” of the United States going forward.
China “has adopted a more coercive and aggressive approach to the Indo-Pacific region. In 2020 alone, Beijing escalated tensions with its neighbors — Australia, Japan and the Philippines,” she said. “Beijing has demonstrated increased military confidence and a willingness to take risks.”
China was involved in an armed confrontation last year with India along their disputed border that resulted in a loss of life on both sides. It also has clamped down on any dissent in Hong Kong with oppressive national security laws, Mrs. Hicks said.
“Beijing is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” she said.
Bipartisan support for a policy that recognizes China as the primary international competitor for the United States is crucial, Mrs. Hicks said.
“The U.S. military along with its allies and partners must have the capability to outmatch the,” People’s Liberation Army, she said. “The Department of Defense should be confident it will continue to receive the support required to sustain our edge.”