The Navy admiral set to be the next US ambassador to Australia has warned Congress that China’s military might is growing at such a pace that it could soon rival American power ‘across almost every domain.’
Admiral Harry Harris, who heads up the military’s enormous Pacific Command (PACOM), testified before the House Armed Services Committee in confirmation hearings on Wednesday.
‘China’s intent is crystal clear. We ignore it at our peril,’ he said. ‘I’m concerned China will now work to undermine the international rules-based order.’
The 61-year-old Harris warned lawmakers they must be wary of Beijing’s investments in traditional assets as well as its development of a new wave of technologies such as hypersonic missiles and artificial intelligence.
‘China’s impressive military buildup could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain,’ Harris said.
Admiral Harry Harris, who heads up the military’s enormous Pacific Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee in confirmation hearings on Wednesday (file photo)
‘Key advancements include fielding significant improvements in missile systems, developing fifth-generation fighter aircraft capabilities, and growing the size and capability of the Chinese navy to include their first overseas base in the port of Djibouti.’
He added: ‘If the United States does not keep pace, PACOM will struggle to compete with the People’s Liberation Army on future battlefields.’
The admiral, born in Japan to a US Navy petty chief father and Japanese mother, also warned of a ‘cult of personality’ developing around Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Harris told the committee China had built ‘vertically and dramatically’ seven new military bases on the Spratly Islands, where China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines each claim sovereignty.
He stated.he was encouraging ‘our friends, allies and partners’ to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the area, something Australia will likely regularly hear from Harris once he is confirmed.
Harris warned of a ‘cult of personality’ developing around Chinese president Xi Jinping (above)
Harris encouraged allies to engage in more freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea, where China has seized uninhabited reefs and aggressively built up military facilities
‘If they (allies) are operating in the South China Sea that demonstrates to the world the South China Sea is in fact international water space and it is not (Chinese territory) simply because it has China in its name,’ Harris told the committee.
Harris, who has been nominated to become the next US ambassador to Australia, has led PACOM for more than two years.
The admiral had glowing words for key US ally Australia, where he is expected to soon assume his post in Canberra.
‘Australia is one of the keys to a rules based international order,’ stated.Harris.
‘They are a key ally of the United States and they have been with us in every major conflict since World War I.’
He also addressed politicians’ concerns about the threat of a missile strike from North Korea.
The Pentagon can, as of now, block any missile coming from the regime of Kim Jong Un, he said, but warned America needs to adapt to the rapid advances in Pyongyang’s capabilities.
‘Given what we think the North Korean capability might be in terms of their missiles in three or four years…. I think we must continue to improve our missile defenses,’ he said.