China’s increasingly advanced weaponry could undermine US military power in the Pacific, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday.
Echoing US intelligence guidelines released on Tuesday that warned of Beijing’s military modernization, Gates said US naval carriers and air bases in the Pacific faced new threats from China.
“In fact, when considering the military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the US symmetrically – fighter to fighter or ship to ship – and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options,” Gates said in a speech to the Air Force Association.
“Investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, and ballistic missiles could threaten America’s primary way to project power and help allies in the Pacific – in particular our forward air bases and carrier strike groups,” Gates said in National Harbor, Maryland.
The new threats meant long-range military aircraft would take on greater importance as the latest weaponry would “degrade the effectiveness of short-range fighters and put more of a premium on being able to strike from over the horizon – whatever form that capability might take,” he said.
Defense analysts have warned that the US military will soon lose its dominance on the high seas, in space and in cyberspace as China and other emerging powers obtain sophisticated weaponry and missiles.
The United States released its 2009 National Intelligence Strategy document Tuesday, in which China’s “natural resource-focused diplomacy and military modernization” were cited as factors making it a “global challenge.”
The intelligence guidelines for the next four years also elevated the importance of the cyber domain, singling out China as “very aggressive in the cyberworld.”