New US mil­i­tary bud­get fo­cused on China

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY ROBERT BURNS

Chi­nese bombers. Chi­nese hy­per­sonic mis­siles. Chi­nese cy­ber­at­tacks. Chi­nese anti-satel­lite weapons.

To a re­mark­able de­gree, the 2020 Pen­tagon bud­get pro­posal is shaped by na­tional se­cu­rity threats that act­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Pa­trick Shana­han has sum­ma­rized in three words: “China, China, China.”

The U.S. is still fight­ing small wars against Is­lamic ex­trem­ists, and Rus­sia re­mains a se­ri­ous con­cern, but Shana­han seeks to shift the mil­i­tary’s main fo­cus to what he con­sid­ers the more press­ing se­cu­rity prob­lem of a rapidly grow­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

This theme, which Shana­han out­lined Thurs­day in pre­sent­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed 2020 de­fense bud­get to the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, is com­pet­ing for at­ten­tion with nar­rower, more im­me­di­ate prob­lems such as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ef­fort to use the mil­i­tary to build a bor­der wall.

The hear­ing, for ex­am­ple, spent more time on the wall and prospects for us­ing mil­i­tary funds to build parts of it than on any as­pect of for­eign pol­icy, in­clud­ing the con­flict in Syria or mil­i­tary com­pe­ti­tion with China, Rus­sia or North Korea.

Shana­han is hardly the first de­fense chief to worry about China. Sev­eral pre­de­ces­sors pur­sued what the Obama ad­mi­nis- tra­tion called a “pivot” to the Pa­cific, with China in mind. But Shana­han sees it as an in­creas­ingly ur­gent prob­lem that ex­ceeds tra­di­tional mea­sures of mil­i­tary strength and tran­scends par­ti­san pri­or­i­ties.

“We’ve been ig­nor­ing the prob­lem for too long,” Shana­han told a sen­a­tor.

“China is ag­gres­sively mod­ern­iz­ing its mil­i­tary, sys­tem­at­i­cally steal­ing science and tech­nol­ogy, and seek­ing mil­i­tary ad­van­tage through a strat­egy of mil­i­tary-civil fu­sion,” he wrote in pre­pared tes­ti­mony to the com­mit­tee, which is con­sid­er­ing a $718 bil­lion Pen­tagon bud­get de­signed in part to counter China’s mo­men­tum.

The $25 bil­lion the Pen­tagon is propos­ing to spend on nu­clear weapons in 2020, for ex­am­ple, is meant in part to stay ahead of China’s nu­clear arse­nal, which is much smaller than Amer­ica’s but grow­ing.

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