US defence chief slams China's drive for hypersonic weapons

Hypersonic arms race?

The U.S. defence chief says that China’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons “increases tensions in the region.”

Defence 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 from (China) to ourselves and to our allies.”

The defence chiefs met as Washington pushes to reinforce alliances with its partners to curb mounting challenges from China and increasing North Korean nuclear threats.

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

But some experts say the alliance still faces challenges such as Seoul’s historical disputes with Japan, another 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, referring to a regional initiative aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon released the results of a global posture review that directs additional cooperation with allies and partners to deter “potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea.” The review also informed Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously rotational attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in South Korea.

South Korea has been reluctant to join U.S.-led regional initiatives to check China's rise because its export-driven economy heavily relies on China, its biggest trading partner. Seoul's diplomatic and trade spats with Japan, which largely originate 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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