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Seoul: America's defense chief rebuked China on Thursday, vowing to confront its potential military threats in Asia and warning that its pursuit of hypersonic weapons intended to evade US missile defenses “increases tensions in the region.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's stern comments after annual security talks with South Korea, a top US ally, are a window into one of the Biden administration's top foreign policy worries: How should Washington and its partners contain a Chinese military that is strengthening — both in sheer firepower and in confidence — as it pursues an end of American dominance in Asia?

China sees much of Asia as its natural sphere of influence.

But many in the region warn of a pattern of Chinese interference, accompanied by moves to acquire the weapons needed to dominate its rivals.

Austin's comments were directed at China's July test of a hypersonic weapon capable of partially orbiting Earth before reentering the atmosphere and gliding on a maneuverable path to its target.

Experts say the weapons system is clearly designed to evade US missile defenses, although China insisted it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a missile.

“We have concerns about the military capabilities that the PRC continues to pursue, and the pursuit of those capabilities increases tensions in the region,” Austin said about the hypersonic weapons test, using the abbreviation for the People's Republic of China, the country's official name.

“We'll continue to maintain the capabilities to defend and deter against a range of potential threats from the PRC to ourselves and to our allies,” he said.      

The Pentagon released on Monday the results of a global posture review that calls for additional cooperation with allies to deter “potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea.”

Last month, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States is also working on hypersonic weapons.           




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