Austin: Allies, key innovation in US competition with China | Radio WGN 720

FILE – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a press conference at the Pentagon November 17, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon intends to work better with private industry to develop high-tech systems and strengthen relationships with allies in the Indo-Pacific region to maintain a competitive advantage over China, said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Austin said China’s recent military activities and aggressive moves in the region, including near the self-governing island of Taiwan, are concerning. And while he said the United States is still committed to the long-standing “one China” policy, it is working to strengthen Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.

“We have clear eyes on the challenge of China. But China is not 10 feet tall. This is America,” Austin said. “America is not a country that fears competition. And we’re going to beat this one with confidence and determination, not with panic and pessimism.

Austin’s speech comes as the United States struggles to counter China’s growing military and economic power and its advances in space, cyber and nuclear capabilities, while avoiding direct conflict. Tensions between the two nations have risen as China has sent increasing numbers of fighter jets to Taiwan, fueling concerns over a possible invasion, even as the United States and its allies sail on warships in the Taiwan Strait.

The US “One China” policy recognizes Beijing as the government of China, but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.

When asked if China’s movements around Taiwan appeared to be training for potential future military operations, Austin said it “sounds a lot like exploring their true capabilities and, of course, it looks like much to a rehearsal”. But, he added, the United States does not want a conflict with China, so it is important that the nations’ armies communicate more and be transparent.

Austin arrived in California after a visit to South Korea, his third trip to the Indo-Pacific region since taking over as defense chief earlier this year.

He told the defense forum that private companies struggle to get through the Pentagon’s red tape when developing new technologies, and that the department needs to make it easier to break through the barriers. He said the Pentagon needs to get advances in unmanned systems, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence into the hands of US forces more quickly.

Austin said the United States also needed to strengthen its network of allies and partners in the Pacific region.

“We are not looking for an Asian version of NATO or trying to build an anti-China coalition. And we’re not asking countries to choose between the United States and China,” Austin said. “Instead, we are working to advance an international system that is free, stable and open.”

The Pentagon has just released its new Global Posture Review, which made no immediate major changes to the global positioning of US forces, but it did include plans to improve infrastructure in parts of the Pacific, including Guam and Australia. . In September, the United States announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain to deepen security, diplomacy and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Under this AUKUS partnership, Australia is to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, and the United States is to increase rotational force deployments to Australia.

Martin E. Berry