Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivered a strong warning to China at a Saturday event saying that its efforts to reshape the region will not be allowed by the United States.
“The PRC is the only country with both the will and increasingly the power to reshape its region and the international order to suit its authoritarian preferences,” Austin said during a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “So let me be clear: We will not let that happen.”
Austin added that the United States is “aligning our budget as never before to the China challenge.”
“The department is putting its focus, its time and its money, where its mouth is, and so we’re matching our investments with new operational concepts suited to 21st century deterrence in the Indo-Pacific,” Austin said.
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In a recent meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Austin says he “underscored” the “serious concerns” the United States has with the “increasingly dangerous behavior” exhibited by Chinese aircraft flying over disputed territory in the region.
“I made clear that the United States will continue to fly, to sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Austin said.
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On Monday, the Pentagon released an annual China security report that warned Beijing would likely have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, with no clarity on how China would seek to use them.
“These next few years will set the terms of our competition with the People’s Republic of China. They will shape the future of security in Europe,” Austin said. “And they will determine whether our children and grandchildren inherit an open world of rules and rights — or whether they face emboldened autocrats who seek to dominate by force and fear.”
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Austin’s stern words toward the communist Chinese government follows criticism of President Biden for statements that seemingly contradict the U.S. government’s official stance that it respects the traditional “One China” policy that acknowledges Beijing as the sole government of China and relegates Taiwan to only an informal diplomatic status.
The White House was forced to walk back a comment from the president in September when he stated that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in any attack by China.
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Biden objected to China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive” actions toward Taiwan in a recent conversation with Xi, according to a summary provided by the White House.
China has repeatedly threatened to take Taiwan by force and has conducted extensive military drills surrounding the island in recent months. Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949 after Democratic forces lost a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and fled to the island.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom and The Associated Press contributed to this report