WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — There were renewed signs on Thursday that the U.S. is upping its ante against potential threats from China.
Top military brass testified before Congress and pressed members to pass U.S. President Joe Biden’s $842 billion military budget request, a figure defense officials claim is driven by competition with China.
“The People’s Republic of China is our pacing challenge and we’re driving hard to meet it,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.
Proposed investment in the Pacific region has reached an all-time high over the last year at the tune of $9 billion — a 40% increase. The U.S. Department of Defense claims that money will be used to beef up defenses in Hawaii and Guam and boost cooperation with allies in the region.
“(China’s) military has advanced from a peasant-based infantry army in 1979 to a world-class military that is near-peer to the United States,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “They are not better than we are, they have a long way to go for that, but they are closing the gap very, very quickly.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the U.S. is planning to move more modern fighters from the Middle East to the Pacific and Europe. The Journal reports the move would involve swapping older A-10 attack planes for advanced aircraft to keep up with advances by China and Russia.
The Pentagon on Thursday declined to discuss the details of the Journal’s report, instead telling NewsNation that “the global force management process is dynamic and the secretary of defense makes decisions based on threats to our forces and our national security interests.”
This comes as China and Russia become closer amid the war in Ukraine.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week wrapped up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was a meeting U.S. defense officials were closely monitoring.
“I think (the meeting) sends a troubling message … a message of support,” Austin said.
Military officials on Thursday left Congress with a warning about both countries.
“Both the People’s Republic of China and Russia have the means to threaten our interests and our way of life. But war with Russia or China is neither inevitable nor imminent,” Milley said.
The White House has said Biden wants to have another conversation with President Jinping. There is also hope that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China. His trip to the region was canceled in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down just off the Carolina coast.