U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said China’s increased pursuit of hypersonic weapons has raised “tensions in the region.”
Following security talks alongside his South Korean counterpart in Seoul recently, Austin said the US has concerns regarding China’s military capabilities. However, Austin ensured the US would maintain the capabilities to defend and deter against a range of potential threats from the country.
“We have concerns about the military capabilities that the PRC continues to pursue and the pursuit of those capabilities in increasing tensions in the region. We know that China conducted a test of hypersonic weapons on the 27th of July. It just underscores why we consider the PRC to be our pacing challenge,” stated Austin.
While concern comes after China tested its hypersonic weapons over the summer, of even greater concern, was North Korea also successfully testing hypersonic missiles back in September. Austin said the South Korean defense minister said the developments of North Korea’s weapons program is “increasingly destabilizing for regional security.”
“We also reaffirmed our shared assessment that the DPRK [North Korea] is continuing to advance its missile and weapons programs. The United States and ROK [South Korea] remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK,” Austin said. “And we continue to call upon DPRK to engage in dialogue.”
Hypersonic weapons can travel at low altitudes, evading detection while being easily maneuvered to better reach their target. China claims the missiles could deal a blow to the US.
The US is apparently working on its own hypersonic weapons, as is Russia, whose navy conducted a test earlier this week. Some experts have warned the missiles are meant to outsmart American detection systems, while others have cautioned that rapid global production by major superpowers will lead to a new arms race.
Despite Austin’s strong words about China’s “saber-rattling” in the region, the Biden administration has come under fire from Republicans for being too soft in its stance on both China and North Korea, compared with former President Trump.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have identified China as the gravest national security threat to the United States, House and Senate GOP members are accusing the president’s people and policies of failing to stand up to Beijing.