Pentagon chief Austin warns China on Asia-Pacific: US will keep lethal edge in combat

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US is building a more lethal force posture in the Indo-Pacific as part of efforts to make sure China doesn’t dominate the region the way it intends to.

China 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 told the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday. “So let me be clear -- we’re not going to let that happen.”

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Austin said the US would “sustain and sharpen” our war-fighting advantages and bolster its force presence “to build a more lethal, mobile, and distributed force posture.”

He cited the B21 stealth bomber, unveiled on Friday, as a key element of its deterrence strategy, and said the US is charting the best way forward for Australia to get a nuclear-powered submarine as soon as possible -- a deal announced early in the Biden administration.

The speech amounts to a new warning shot to President Xi Jinping even as the US looks to establish what it calls guardrails and keep tension with China from spiraling out of control.

In its latest report on China’s military strength, released late last month, the US government said China is still intent on gaining the capability to invade by 2027 and become the world’s most powerful military by 2049.

As it looks to counter that push, Austin outlined other measures, saying the Pentagon had sharpened its focus on the Indo-Pacific as the primary theater of operations, including by pushing to be able to mobilize troops more quickly and investing in military construction and logistics.

Read more: Kamala Harris affirms ‘unwavering’ US defense commitment to treaty ally Philippines

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