Milley: China more aggressive, dangerous for the United States and its allies
Jakarta, Indonesia — China’s military has become much more aggressive and dangerous over the past five years, the top US military officer said on an Indo-Pacific trip that included a Sunday stopover in Indonesia.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the number of interceptions by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific region with US forces and other partners has increased significantly over the past this period, and the number of dangerous interactions has similarly increased. proportions.
“The message is that the Chinese military, in the air and at sea, has become much more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region,” said Milley, who recently asked his staff to compile details of the interactions between China and the United States and others in the region.
His comments came as the United States redoubles its efforts to strengthen relations with Pacific countries as a counterweight to China, which is trying to expand its presence and influence in the region. The Biden administration sees China as its “stimulus threat” and America’s main long-term security challenge.
Milley’s trip to the region is heavily focused on the Chinese threat. He will attend a meeting of Indo-Pacific defense chiefs this week in Sydney, Australia, where key topics will be China’s growing military growth and the need to maintain a free, open and peaceful Pacific.
US military officials have also sounded the alarm over the possibility that China could invade Taiwan, the democratic and self-governing island that Beijing considers a breakaway province. China has stepped up its military provocations against Taiwan as it seeks to bully it into unifying with the communist mainland.
US military officials have said Beijing wants to be ready to intervene on the island by 2027. The United States remains Taiwan’s main ally and supplier of defense weapons. US law requires the government to treat all threats to the island as matters of “grave concern”, but remains ambiguous about whether the US military would defend Taiwan if attacked by China.
China’s top military officer, General Li Zuocheng, told Milley in a July 7 call that Beijing had “no room for compromise” on issues such as Taiwan. He said he told Milley that the United States should “stop military collusion between the United States and Taiwan and avoid affecting China-US relations and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
The United States and others also fear that a recent security deal Beijing signed in April with the Solomon Islands could lead to the establishment of a Chinese naval base in the South Pacific. The United States and Australia have told the Solomon Islands that hosting a Chinese military base will not be tolerated.
“This is an area where China is trying to raise awareness for its own ends. And again, it’s concerning because China isn’t just doing this for benign reasons,” Milley told reporters. traveling with him. “They are trying to expand their influence throughout the region. And that has potential consequences that are not necessarily favorable to our allies and partners in the region.”
Milley’s visit to Indonesia is the first by a co-chair of U.S. leaders since Admiral Mike Mullen in 2008. But U.S. leaders have crisscrossed Asia-Pacific in recent months, including high-profile visits by the secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. .
The Biden administration has taken steps to expand military and security relations with Indo-Pacific countries as part of a campaign to build a stronger web of alliances in the backyard of the China and to counter China’s growing influence.
Milley declined to provide a specific number of dangerous Chinese interactions with US and allied aircraft and ships. But Austin, in a speech in Singapore last month, referred to an “alarming increase” in the number of dangerous interceptions by People’s Liberation Army planes and ships.
Austin specifically pointed to a February incident where a PLA Navy vessel aimed a laser at an Australian P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. But there were several others. A Canadian-controlled surveillance plane was recently intercepted by a Chinese fighter in international airspace. And American ships are regularly chased by Chinese planes and ships during transits, especially around the artificial islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.
Milley said there have been Chinese interceptions with Japan, Canada, Australia, the Philippines and Vietnam. They all, he said, saw a “statistically significant” increase in interceptions, and the number of dangerous incidents increased in an “equal proportion”.
Milley, who will meet General Andika Perkasa, head of the Indonesian National Defense Forces, said Pacific nations like Indonesia want the US military involved and engaged in the region.
“We want to work with them to develop interoperability and collectively modernize our militaries,” Milley said, to ensure they can “address any challenges China presents.”
He said Indonesia was strategically critical to the region and had long been a key partner of the United States.
Earlier this year, the United States approved a $13.9 billion sale of advanced fighter jets to Indonesia. And in Jakarta last December, Blinken signed agreements for enhanced joint naval exercises between the United States and Indonesia.
China has condemned US efforts to expand its reach in the region, accusing America of trying to build an “Asian NATO”. During a speech in Singapore, Austin dismissed that claim. “We are not looking for a new Cold War, an Asian NATO or a region divided into hostile blocs,” he said.