U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Munich Security Conference that China is a growing threat to Europe.
In Europe, there is a focus on the threat from Russia. However, there is also a threat from China, the Pentagon’s number one concern, Esper said during his remarks at the conference held in Germany.
“America’s concerns about Beijing’s commercial and military expansion should be [Europe’s] concerns as well,” according to him.
Munich Security Conference is an annual meeting for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers.
The Communist Party and its associated organizations, including the People’s Liberation Army, are increasingly operating in theaters outside its borders, including Europe, and seeking advantage by any means, and at any cost, according to Esper.
The U.S Defense chief said China is currently applying economic and political pressure publicly and privately on many Indo-Pacific region and European nations, to seek new strategic relationships.
The Belt and Road Initiative is one such example where it uses overseas investments to force other nations into making suboptimal security decisions, the secretary noted. This has wide-ranging implications for the U.S. and allies in areas such as data security and military interoperability.
He pointed out the growing threat from Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei, which has developed and is exporting 5G networks to countries that include U.S. allies in Europe. “That could render our partners’ critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage.”
“To counter this, we are encouraging allied and U.S. tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions, and we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak,” Esper said.
Esper said China’s President Xi Jinping is leading his nation even faster in the wrong direction: more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness and a more aggressive military posture.
He warned the international community to be aware of the challenges presented by China’s manipulation of the longstanding international rules-based order.
Beijing has made its long term plans clear by announcing that by 2035 it will complete its military modernization, which will help it dominate Asia as the preeminent global military power by the middle of this century.
While China is weaponizing the space domain through the development of directed-energy weapons and killer satellites, the Pentagon is developing its first new military service — the U.S. Space Force — to ensure freedom of use, commerce and navigation in space, Esper said.
However, Esper asserted that in spite of these negative factors, the U.S. doesn’t seek conflict with China, but “look for areas of cooperation where our interests converge.”
He cited the example of the U.S. government’s delivery of 18 tons of medical supplies to China and other assistance to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.
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