Kirby: China bolstering military capabilities is ‘worrisome’

Politics

(NewsNation) — A report from the Pentagon warns of China’s growing military that could see its nuclear arsenal more than triple by 2035, which the White House called “worrisome.”

The annually-mandated report delivered to Congress underscores China’s effort to beef up its nuclear arsenal and flex its muscle on the world stage. Right now, China has a nuclear stockpile of more than 400 warheads. That could grow to 1,500 nuclear in the next 10 to 15 years, the Pentagon forecasts.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there are “worrisome trends” of China building more ships and bolstering its ballistic missile program alongside the nuclear arsenal buildup.

“Their aggressive military activities in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea, remains a concern,” Kirby told NewsNation on Wednesday outside the White House.

One senior defense official called the report “a rapid buildup that is too substantial to keep under wraps.”

It comes at a time China is increasing threats against invading Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own. The report revealed that China is increasingly practicing seizing islands, and China’s military conducted more ballistic missile tests last year than the rest of the world combined.

The report states China is looking to boost its military with the goal of invading Taiwan by 2027, less than five years from now.

Taiwan became a point of tension earlier this summer when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island, the highest-ranking member of Congress to do so since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. Pelosi’s visit set off a string of military exercises by both China and Taiwan.

President Joe Biden met with China’s President Xi Jinping earlier this month, and Kirby said neither leader came out of the meeting with rose-colored glasses. Biden was frank with Xi but is also working to repair the relationship that has been on rocky footing following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Kirby emphasized nothing has changed about the United States’ position on the issue.

“We have been nothing but clear and consistent with China that we still adhere to the One-China policy,” Kirby said. “We do not support Taiwan independence. We will support and continue to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will go to China in the new year to strengthen the lines of communication, and the White House strategy, Kirby said, is to “lay bare” the concerns it has about what China is doing in the region.

“We’ve been very, very clear about the challenges from a security perspective that China poses and it’s not just in the military realm. We’ve also been clear that this is a competition it doesn’t need to be a conflict,” Kirby said. “The president, and you heard him say this, is very confident that America is well positioned to succeed in that competition and that’s and that’s how we’re approaching it.”

Protests in China

Responding to criticism that the White House wasn’t forceful enough in its defense of Chines protesters who demonstrated against the country’s zero-COVID policies, Kirby said the U.S. has been “consistent” in support for demonstrators around the world.

“We believe strongly in freedom of expression, free assembly and certainly the idea, the right to peaceful protest,” Kirby said. “We were very consistent about that, very deliberate, very measured, in how we talked about that as we are elsewhere around the world.”

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