Lloyd Austin says tests are heightening regional tensions as the US continues to pledge military aid to South Korea.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said China’s hunt for hypersonic weapons is “raising tensions in the region”, promising the United States will maintain its ability to deter potential threats from China.
Austin made the remarks Thursday in Seoul after annual security talks with his South Korean counterpart that focused on the challenges posed by China and North Korea and other issues facing the allies.
“We are concerned about the military capabilities that the PRC continues to pursue. Again, pursuing those capabilities raises tensions in the region,” Austin said, referring to hypersonic weapons tests conducted in July and August, and using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China, the country’s official name.
“It just underscores why we consider the PRC our pacing challenge,” Austin added. “We will continue to maintain the capabilities to defend and deter a range of potential threats from the PRC to ourselves and our allies.”
China’s growing military strength and its drive to end US rule in the Asia-Pacific have sparked unrest in Washington, which has also developed advanced weapons.
China has denied testing hypersonic missiles, saying the tests involved a reusable space vehicle.
Austin and General Mark Milley of the U.S. Army, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in Seoul for the first annual military talks with South Korean officials since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January, and the last before the South. Korean President Moon Jae-in to leave office in May.
Austin and his South Korean counterpart Suh Wook also discussed North Korea.
The two agreed that Pyongyang’s continued development of new missiles and weapons “increasingly destabilized regional security”, but emphasized that they remained committed to a diplomatic approach to North Korea.
Suh said the allies agree that “diplomacy and dialogue based on past engagements between South and North Korea and between North Korea and the United States are essential to achieving permanent peace on the Korean peninsula”.
Despite the serious economic problems associated with the pandemic, Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected US offers to resume talks, saying Washington must first give up its hostility to the north. The Biden administration insists international sanctions against North Korea will remain in place unless the country takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon released a global posture assessment calling for additional cooperation with allies and partners to deter “potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea,” including a previously announced decision to launch an attack helicopter squadron and headquarters of to base the artillery division permanently. in South Korea.
Allied military leaders said they plan to update war plans for contingencies and review their combined military command.
The US is stationing about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a ceasefire but no peace treaty.
Currently, the United States would command those troops in the event of war, but South Korea has sought to gain “operational control” (OPCON).
Suh said the two sides have made progress in meeting the conditions for OPCON transfer to South Korea.
The US has pledged to maintain the current level of US troops in South Korea, he added.