The US Defence Department has released its annual report on military and security developments regarding China. It highlights a strategy being advanced by the Chinese military aimed at blocking intervention by US forces in the western Pacific and states that China’s target of military modernisation is to undermine the regional pre-eminence of the US forces.
The report says that Chinese expansion of its bomber operational areas is likely China’s way of showing it has the capability to conduct airstrikes on such targets as the US forces stationed in Japan. The report also sounds alarm bells over the expansion of the Marine Corps of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, which undertakes landing operations.
In a challenge to the United States, China is increasing its military spending at a pace exceeding its economic growth rate. The overwhelming dominance of US forces, which have supported the peace and prosperity of Asia and the Pacific regions, could be shaken. It can be said that the report reflects a strong sense of alarm in the administration of US President Donald Trump.
The US National Security Strategy released late last year showed a recognition of China’s attempts to replace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.
On the basis of lessons learned from the failure of the previous US administration of President Barack Obama, which, emphasising cooperation with China, could not check China’s high-handed maritime advances, there is no mistake that the Trump administration will increase pressure, both on military and economic fronts.
The National Defence Authorisation Act, which stipulates a broad outline of the US national defence budget among other things has banned US governmental organisations from using China’s leading telecommunications firms. It has also put forth a policy to exclude the Chinese military from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) joint exercises, led by the US Navy.
Given that the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping maintains a stance for the forced unification of Taiwan, a policy of assisting Taiwan to improve its defence capability has also been incorporated. China, opposing such a plan, has been accelerating its manoeuvring to isolate Taiwan from the international community.
While continuing its engagement with Taiwan, the United States is required to make efforts to build trust between the US and Chinese military authorities to avoid an unexpected clash.
The US defence budget stands at about $716 billion, reaching the highest level in nine years. Securing the funds needed to maintain deterrence is essential.
China has been supporting such countries as Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the development of their ports, which are believed to be eventually turned into its own military strongholds.
The Xi administration should recognise the present state of affairs: Without the disclosure of its national defence policy, uncertainty over its advancing military buildup is stoking concerns among neighbouring countries.
It is vital for the United States and its allies and friends to deal with China’s military buildup jointly. That the United States has indicated a policy of investing $300 million in maritime security cooperation and terrorist countermeasures with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is welcomed.
Concrete measures should be worked out quickly.