Defense Secretary Leon Panetta slammed China’s efforts to develop hypersonic weapons, calling them “a threat to our national security.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that China’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons increases tensions in the region and vowed that the US would maintain its capability to deter potential threats from China.
As a result of their discussions, Austin made the remarks in Seoul, where he had just concluded his yearly security summit with his South Korean counterpart.
Using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the country’s official name, while discussing China’s most recent hypersonic weapons test in July, Austin expressed concern about the country’s continued pursuit of military capabilities and how that pursuit increases regional tension.
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According to Austin, the PRC is our pacing challenge because of China’s increasing military capabilities and the threats they pose to U.S. defense plans.
We will continue to have the capability of protecting and deterring ourselves and our allies from a wide range of threats from the PRC,” he said.
Unease in Washington has been sparked by China’s growing military strength and its desire to end American predominance in Asia. By the end of July, China had successfully demonstrated the ability to launch a hypersonic weapon capable of orbiting around Earth before returning to its intended target. Even though China claimed it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a nuclear missile, experts believe the weapons system was designed to evade U.S. missile defenses.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, revealed last month that the United States is also developing hypersonic weapons. Concerns in Washington are expressed about the United States’ lack of progress in this area compared to other countries. Earlier this week, Russia’s navy successfully tested a potential hypersonic cruise missile in the latest launch of the weapons system, the country said Monday.
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If a missile defense system is able to keep up with hypersonic weapons, which travel at speeds in excess of Mach 5, it could face a serious threat. Some experts, however, argue that hypersonic weapons would do little to improve America’s ability to deter war and fear that they could spark a new, unstable arms race as a result.
During the meeting, Austin said he and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook discussed a wide range of issues, including bilateral unity in the face of the North’s threat. Austin said that the two agreed that North Korea’s advancement of its missile and other weapons programs is increasingly threatening regional security.
He said that the United States and South Korea are still committed to a diplomatic approach to North Korea and that the two countries are working together.
“The allies understand that diplomacy and dialogue based on previous commitments are essential for achieving permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula,” Suh said, per Reuters.
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Refusing to meet with the United States despite the country’s economic hardships, North Korea has said that Washington must first give up its hostility toward the North. Unless North Korea takes concrete steps toward denuclearization, the Biden administration says, sanctions against the country will remain in place.
According to Pentagon findings released this week, additional cooperation with allies and partners is needed to deter potential Chinese military aggression and North Korean threats. Additionally, the review informed Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously rotational attack helicopter squadron in South Korea and the artillery division headquarters.
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