China is “emboldened” to take military action, and more must be done to counter it, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said in Congressional testimony this week.
Navy Admiral Philip S. Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, testified this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee. And in his opening statement, he laid out some of the threats in that part of the world. But he started with China.
“Absent a convincing deterrent, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be emboldened to take action to undermine the rules-based international order and the values represented in our vision for a Free and Open IndoPacific,” Admiral Davidson said in his opening statement. “The combination of the PRC’s military modernization program and willingness to intimidate its neighbors through the use, or threatened use of force, undermines peace, security, and prosperity in the region.”
“The greatest danger for the United States in this competition is the erosion of conventional deterrence,” Davidson continued. “A combat-credible, conventional deterrent posture is necessary to prevent conflict, protect U.S. interests, and to assure our allies and partners. Absent a convincing deterrent, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be emboldened to take action to undermine the rules-based international order and the values represented in our vision for a Free and Open IndoPacific.”
The testimony echoes the words of other military officials, including one quoted by Defense One this week.
“We have been trying to convey in Washington a sense of urgency,” said an official who is part of the traveling party with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. “We are optimistic that a new administration will do even more, but frankly there’s been less walk than talk… there’s enough evidence that there’s a real concern here in the 2020s about China’s motivations in Beijing to try and resolve something, potentially using military capability.”
Back in Washington, Admiral Davidson also addressed concerns related to North Korea in his testimony.
“Until the nuclear situation is resolved on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea will remain our most immediate threat,” the admiral said. “Pyongyang continues to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction and asymmetric capabilities— including nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems, as well as advanced cyber operations—that threaten our allies and the U.S. homeland.
“The country has taken no meaningful steps toward denuclearization, despite promising signs of de-escalation in 2018, and it continues to advance its strategic weapons program. Pyongyang maintains a diverse and growing missile inventory, and North Korea unveiled several new ballistic systems during military parades in late 2020 and early 2021, including two SLBMs and an ICBM.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.