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U.S. defense chief is slamming China's drive for hypersonic weapons

U.S. defense chief is slamming China's drive for hypersonic weapons

December 3, 2021: -The U.S. defense chief says that China’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons “increases tensions in the region.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the remarks in Seoul on Thursday following annual security talks with his South Korean counterpart.

Austin says the U.S. is concerned about China’s military capability and calls Beijing “our pacing challenge.”

He says the U.S. will “maintain the capabilities to defend and deter against a range of potential threats to ourselves and our allies.”

The South Korean and U.S. defense chiefs met on Thursday for their annual talks. Washington pushes to reinforce alliances with its partners to curb China’s mounting challenges and increase North Korean nuclear threats.

After the talks, the allies were expected to announce a boost of their decades-long military alliance. At the same time, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will likely reaffirm America’s extended deterrence to South Korea using its range of military capabilities.

But few experts say the alliance still faces challenges like Seoul’s historical disputes with Japan, one more key U.S. regional ally, and its hesitation to join U.S.-led initiatives targeting China.

“The US-ROK Alliance is the linchpin of peace and security in this region, and we will work together as we move toward a #FreeandOpenIndoPacific,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted upon arrival in South Korea on Wednesday, which refers to a regional initiative aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

In latest years, the U.S. and South Korea have also canceled or downsized a few of their military drills to support now-dormant nuclear diplomacy with North Korea and as a step to protect their troops from Covid-19. North Korea was calling such drills an invasion rehearsal and responded with costly military exercises or weapons tests.

Despite some pandemic-related economic hardships, North Korea has rebuffed the U.S. offers to resume talks, which says Washington must first abandon its hostility toward the North. The Biden administration maintains that international sanctions on North Korea will stay unless the country takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.

On Thursday, North Korea’s state media cited leader Kim Jong Un saying the North’s economy has been stably managed with successes in its agriculture and construction sectors. This claim cannot be independently confirmed. It said North Korea would hold a critical meeting in late December to determine its policy objectives for the coming year.

South Korea has been reluctant to join U.S.-led regional initiatives to check China’s increase because its export-driven economy heavily relies on China, its biggest trading partner. Seoul’s diplomatic and trade spats with Japan, primarily from Tokyo’s past colonization of the Korean Peninsula, have also compounded the prospects for a U.S. push to solidify its trilateral security cooperation with its two key Asian allies.

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