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US must 'prepare' for possible war with China, admiral warns

Harry Harris says Beijing undertaking 'military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics'

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Thursday 15 February 2018 01:07 GMT
Chinese Army soldiers during a Victory Day parade in Moscow
Chinese Army soldiers during a Victory Day parade in Moscow (Reuters)

The top US admiral in the Pacific has warned America must be "prepared" for a possible future war with China.

Harry Harris, who has been nominated to be the next US ambassador to Australia, told Congress to ignore at "our peril" China's "crystal clear" intent to dominate the South China Sea.

The 61-year-old offered an ominous assessment of Beijing's increasingly aggressive posture in the region, and of the rapid build up of its military capabilities.

“Judging by China’s regional behaviour I am concerned that China will now work to undermine the rules-based international order, not just in the Indo-Pacific but on a global scale.” he told the House armed services committee.

“If the US does not keep pace [Pacific Command] will struggle to compete with the People’s Liberation Army on future battlefields,” he added.

China, he claimed, is using “military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics to coerce neighbouring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific to their advantage.”

Former defence chief: Russia and China already have capability to hold the UK at military risk

On Wednesday, US intelligence chief Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “malign actors” like Russia and China would continue to use several tactics, such as cyber warfare, to challenge US influence around the globe.

"As far as the idea of deterrence and winning wars, I’m a military guy," Mr Harris told members of the committee. "And I think it’s important you must plan and resource to win a war at the same time you work to prevent it.”

Harry Harris, the commander of US Pacific Command, has taken a hard line against Chinese military expansion (Getty Images ) (Getty Images)

“At the end of the day the ability to wage war is important or you become a paper tiger. I’m hopeful that it won’t come to a conflict with China, but we must all be prepared for that if it should come to that.”

Last week, Mr Trump signed a bipartisan budget deal that significantly boosted defence spending.

The President on Wednesday, speaking of the budget agreement, said “we’re extremely happy with the bill that was passed,” because “it takes care of our military.”

“Our military will be in better shape than ever before,” the President added.

Appointed to lead the Pacific Command by President Barack Obama, Mr Harris has taken a hard line against Chinese military expansion in the region, calling the nation “provocative”.

Mr Harris has spent 39 years in the Navy and is expected to be approved as ambassador to Australia by the Senate. The US has been without an ambassador to its ally since 2016.

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