Beijing’s growing military threat presents major challenges for Australia as well as to the US territories of Guam and Hawaii.
She said China’s President Xi Jinping’s rhetoric is making “clear their intentions” to be a global military power.
“The Chinese are advancing their capabilities at a remarkable clip. Those capabilities include, of course, undersea capabilities,” Ms Hicks said.
“But even beyond what they’re doing in the undersea, it’s a very clear pattern of expanding out the geographic capability, the range of their capability to deny other interested parties, whether that’s around Japan, whether that’s around, in the case of the United States, Guam or even Hawaii.
“And if you’re Australia, it includes, of course, spanning out now, getting closer to Australia, the ability to threaten their interests.”
But Ms Hicks stressed the US and its allies in the Pacific were aiming to reduce tensions and were not embarking on an arms race.
“Our goal is not to have any conflict, armed conflict, with China. It is to reduce tension and demonstrate a credible deterrent so they are not tempted with this rhetoric and this capability to overreach,” she said.
Earlier this year, a Sydney think tank warned Australia’s geographic isolation – which has been a major strategic advantage for decades – would not be a future deterrent for the Asian superpower in the event of an Indo-Pacific power play.
The Lowy Institute report said China’s missile arsenal and its long-range bomber force are the most concerning elements of the country’s recent arms build-up.