China military expansion poses threat for Australia, top Pentagon official warns

The US Government has “real reasons for concern” over China’s expanding size and range of its military capabilities in the region, deputy defence secretary Kathleen Hicks said.

Beijing’s growing military threat presents major challenges for Australia as well as to the US territories of Guam and Hawaii.

China is rapidly updating and expanding its military forces. (AP)

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.

Recent rhetoric by Chinese President Xi Jinping show he is serious about making the country a serious military power, a top Pentagon official has warned. (AP)

“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.

Ms Hicks’ comments came after Australia joined the US and UK in the new AUKUS defence pact. Under the agreement, Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines in response to the changing security environment of the Indo-Pacific.
Under the AUKUS defence pact, Australia will acquire nuclear powered submarines. (US Navy)

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.

Japan – $66.3 billion

Countries with the highest military expenditure in the world

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.

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