STAFF: Hey, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome. I’m Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn. I’m the spokesman for Asia-Pacific Security Affairs here at the Pentagon, Defense Press Operations.
I’m going to go over some ground rules really quick.
First and foremost, this is on-camera, on the record. So I need to remind everybody to remove their badges, please.
Having said that, this engagement is about the 2019 DOD report to Congress on the People’s Republic of China. I ask you focus your questions on that. You’ll — once you’re called on, you’ll be given one question with a possible follow-up. ASD Schriver will be making the decision on who to call. Once he calls on you, please state your name and your outlet clearly.
And this is a 40-minute session. And ASD has a tight schedule this afternoon, so just know that we’re going to be sticking to that.
Do you have any questions of me before I go get ASD Schriver? Okay. Really quick. It’s Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall G. Schriver. And I’ll spell that for you. It’s R-A-N-D-A-L-L. G as in Golf. Schriver, S-C-H-R-I-V-E-R. And he’s the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.
Okay? So no questions? Be right back.
STAFF: So, good morning.
I want to thank you all for being here today for the department’s brief on the 2019 report on Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China. This annual report is the authoritative statement from the United States government on military and security developments involving China.
As the National Defense Strategy lays out, the strategic competition with China will be the primary concern for the U.S. national security for years to come. Assistant Secretary for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver is here to discuss China’s security and military strategy with you. And he will provide some opening remarks. And I think Lieutenant Colonel Eastburn will help facilitate the engagement this morning.
So with that, secretary?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE RANDALL G. SCHRIVER: Thank you. Good morning.
As was noted, yesterday, the Department of Defense submitted our annual report to Congress, which we refer to as the China Military Power Report. And this report is our authoritative statement on how we view developments in the Chinese military, as well as how that integrates with our overall strategy.
And, of course, this relates directly to what we do here at the Department of Defense in our implementation of our National Defense Strategy, which states that the United States will compete from a position of strength, while encouraging China to cooperate with the United States on security issues where our interests align.
So a few things to comment about the report.
First of all, with respect to some of the military developments, we continue to see that China seeks to erode U.S. military advantages. And seeks to gain and maintain influence. And it backs these ambitions with significant resourcing, which translates into real capabilities and capacity.
Our 2019 report finds that in the coming decades, China seeks to become both prosperous and powerful, and the report notes that China has a stated goal of becoming a world-class military by 2049.
Some of the specific areas of modernization: China continues to grow its inventory of DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles. These missiles are capable of conducting conventional and nuclear precision strikes against targets — both ground and naval targets in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
China has begun construction of its second domestically built aircraft carrier in 2018. Their first domestically built aircraft carrier will likely join the fleet this calendar year. And, of course, these carriers follow a foreign-acquired carrier.
In 2017 and ’18, China launched its first four Renhai-class guided missile cruisers. This — as well as having several more under construction. We expect that the Renhai will enter operational service this calendar year. This cruiser class will be China’s premier carrier escort for blue-water operations, carrying an array of long-range, anti-ship cruise missiles.
We also noted, at the Zhuhai Airshow this year in November, the PLA air force conducted a demonstration of its J-20 fighter, its fifth-generation, most modern fighter.
Equally important to the equipment, China, in 2018, published a new outline for training and evaluation. And this publication emphasizes realistic and joint training across all warfare domains and tasks the PLA to prepare for conflict aimed at, quote, “strong military opponents.”
There also continues to be continued emphasis on civil military integration. Under the Civil Military Integration Initiative, China’s leaders are incentivizing the civilian sector of the economy to enter the defense market to achieve greater efficiencies, innovation and growth.
Our report also talks about China’s continuing use of cyber theft, its targeted investment, its exploitation of private Chinese nationals’ access to foreign military technology, all to support its modernization goals. In 2018, we saw specific efforts targeting such areas as aviation technologies and anti-submarine warfare technologies.
We also see China continue to pursue global access and — and increase its global military footprint. They — alongside military modernization, they seek to have the ability to affect security along China’s periphery and beyond.
We believe China will seek to establish additional military bases overseas, as well as points for access. Press reporting in 2018 indicated China sought to expand its military basing and access in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
Regarding some strategic developments — and it’s important to note that all these developments occur in a larger context. China’s leaders are leveraging their growing diplomatic, economic, as well as their military clout to secure China’s status as a great power, and with the aim of becoming the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific.
In 2018, China continued to implement long-range, state-directed planning, such as Made In China 2025, that challenges the economies of high-tech exporting nations to support China’s development, including, indirectly, its military development. They’re also leveraging the One Belt One Road initiative to enhance its global role and to shape other countries’ interests so that they align with China.
After noticing the Made in 2025 and One Belt, One Road have caused some concern, China’s leaders have softened their rhetoric and have sought to re-brand to some extent. However, the fundamental goals of these programs have not changed.
As our report described, China conducts influence operations — we have a special section of the report that addresses that — targeting media, culture, business, academia and the policy communities in the United States and other countries.
It’s also important to note, as our report does, that last year the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission took sole authority of the People’s Armed Police. The People’s Armed Police, of course, is the primary force for internal security. And, of course, our concerns are significant when it comes to the ongoing repression in China. The Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps.
With respect to China’s approach to some regional disputes, we’re concerned that China’s leaders continue to take actions that erode the rules-based order and that they are willing to accept friction in pursuit of those interests.
The report finds that China continues to employ tactics designed to fall short of armed conflict and accomplish its — its objectives and its goals along its periphery in a so-called gray-zone approach.
In 2018 China continued its militarization in the South China Sea and, as been widely reported, placed anti-ship cruise missiles, long-range surface-to-air missiles and jamming systems on some of the outposts in the Spratly Islands.
This violated a 2015 pledge made by General Secretary Xi Jinping in the Rose Garden of the White House when he stated that China does not intend to pursue militarization of the Spratly Islands.
China also continues to use coercive economic measures, both economic tools as well as military tools, to advance its interests and to mitigate opposition for — from other countries.
For example, in 2018 China used economic coercion by reducing overseas trade and tourism in an effort to influence domestic politics and political institutions in countries in Oceania, including Australia and Palau.
With respect to Taiwan, China’s overall strategy continues to incorporate elements of both persuasion and coercion and overall is destabilizing not only to Taiwan but to the entire region.
Bowing to Chinese pressure in 2018, the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party seeks to diplomatically isolate Taiwan by stripping away its diplomatic allies.
It also applies economic pressure by cutting tourism and redirecting investment, and it seeks to undermine democracy in Taiwan by meddling in its elections.
And while China publicly advocates for peaceful unification, China has never renounced the use of military force, and continues to apply pressure through its posture, increasingly provocative exercises and operations.
Our report also talks about U.S.-China military-to-military relations. While the National Defense Strategy emphasizes competition, we certainly don’t seek conflict with China and it doesn’t preclude cooperation where our interests align.
We continue to pursue a constructive result-oriented relationship between our countries. And it’s an important part of our regional strategy to have stable, constructive relations with China and a relationship which mitigates the risk of incident or accident.
So this all sets a framework in which we’re operating. And as I said up front, our National Defense Strategy is aimed at dealing with these challenges.
You’re familiar with the pillars of our strategy: seeking to increase the lethality of the joint force, strengthening partners and allies, and reforming the business practices of the Department of Defense. Much of that will put us on a better posture to compete effectively and deal with these challenges.
So with that, I look forward to your questions.
Q: Hi, Lolita Baldor with AP.
I just wanted to get your — sort of, a more detailed assessment on China’s cyber activities.
The U.S. has, for a number of years now, talked to them, spoken, taken steps to try and mitigate some of this. Is it getting worse? Are any of the actions the U.S. is taking having any impact at all? And if not, what can the U.S. do about this, to stop the effects on technology stealing?
MR. SCHRIVER: I would say the — the threat and the challenge is persistent. The Chinese remain very aggressive in their use of cyber.
What’s changed is our level of awareness and the steps we’re taking to reduce our own vulnerabilities and working with partners and allies to do the same.
Q: Just two quick questions.
One is you mentioned the — the Chinese were using concentration camps. Could you explain why you used that — the terminology?
And then also, separately, on Taiwan, there’s been an increase in the pace of — of transits of U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait. The French recently just completed an operation. Could you explain what’s behind the increasing frequency and the expansion of the types of ships from countries that are participating?
MR. SCHRIVER: Yeah.
On the first point, the detention camps, given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens out of a population of about 10 million, so a very significant portion of the population, what’s happening there, what the goals are of the Chinese government and their own public comments make that a very, I think, appropriate description.
With respect to Taiwan, the Taiwan Strait is international water. We transit it as we see fit. The Chinese transit as well, and we don’t object to their transits because it’s international water for — for the use of all seafaring nations. And so we’ll continue to do that as we see necessary and expect that other countries would do the same, as it is international water.
Q: (Lucas Tomlinson from Fox News.
Can you explain in what area of Chinese — China’s military they’ve made the most gains?
MR. SCHRIVER: They’ve — they’ve had a very aggressive modernization effort that goes back at least two decades. So, they’ve made progress in a number of areas. I would say their power projection through ballistic and cruise missiles is an area they’ve made tremendous progress and they continue to develop enhanced capabilities in those areas.
But, really, it wouldn’t be limited to that. And I think in — particularly in new domains, they’ve invested a lot in cyber, space, hypersonics, A.I. So we’re seeing a very aggressive modernization effort backed by resourcing. For almost two decades, they’ve had near-double-digit growth in their official defense budgets. Their defense budgets might actually be higher than that.
So this is a — a national effort that’s resourced very well. And it’s targeted at them being as, the report says, the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific.
Q: And former Vice President Joe Biden says that China is not a competitor of the United States. What is your response?
MR. SCHRIVER: I’ll stick with the language in our National Security Strategy and our National Defense Strategy, which identifies China as a strategic competitor.
Q: Can you talk about the PLA’s presence in Tajikistan and how it influences Afghanistan?
MR. SCHRIVER: The — I think the Chinese have growing interests in Central Asia in general and they’re looking for partners that will train with them, give them access. They — I think they have a variety of interests there that may include Afghanistan, but I think they have broader interests in Central Asia.
I know the Russians are also paying attention to that. And that could be a source of some friction there.
We — we certainly don’t begrudge our — our friends and partners in Central Asia for wanting a relationship with China. But we would suggest that they keep an eye on what China’s ambitions actually are and what kind of influence they’re trying to exert, given increased access.
Q: And is the Chinese military strategy to defeat the United States military conventionally? Or do they believe they would have to use nuclear weapons in order to do that?
MR. SCHRIVER: I think as our report outlines, the Chinese strategy is to supplant the United States and become the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific. They also have known interests in particular contingencies — potential contingencies — East China Sea, Taiwan, South China Sea — that they prepare for, as well as on their land borders.
So we think they are directing their efforts at trying to prevail in those known contingencies, and that would likely involve dealing with the United States in some form, given our commitments in the region.
Q: David Martin with CBS.
Do you expect China to continue militarizing the islands in the South China Sea? And what, if anything, can the U.S. do about it?
MR. SCHRIVER: I don’t know what steps China will take beyond what they’ve already done. I think those steps at militarizing the outposts are designed with a certain aim. And they seek to operationalize an illegal expansive sovereignty claim; basically everything inside the Nine-Dash Line, or the entire South China Sea.
So what we’d do about it is, we fly, sail and operate where international law allows, we’re increasingly joined by other countries, to make sure that no one country can change international law and international norms, that that water remains international water; in other words, making that investment that the Chinese have made as insignificant as possible, particularly where their core goal is aimed at.
We also do capacity-building in the region so that our partners and allies have their own capability to monitor their territory that abuts against the disputed territories of the South China Sea.
And I think what — what we expect China will see as this unfolds, is they’ve taken steps that are destabilizing. In response, they’re getting more action from the United States — freedom of navigation, presence operations — joined by more and more countries in terms of presence, operations and activities in the South China Sea, more and more capable maritime Asian nations to deal with maritime security.
And if they continue, potentially more cost imposition. As you know, we disinvited them from RIMPAC because of their activities in the South China Sea, and there could be more cost imposition in the future.
Q: Has any of that had any effect so far?
MR. SCHRIVER: The effect is — the fundamental nature of the South China Sea hasn’t changed. We — China has changed some facts on the ground with respect to the land reclamation and the infrastructure on these outposts. But the effect that the Chinese seek, which is operationalizing this illegal expansive sovereignty claim, has not been achieved.
Q: (inaudible), (inaudible).
With regards to Taiwan and the increased pressure from the PRC, what can the U.S. do to provide more tangible substantial support to Taiwan? And in particular, what is the current progress of the sales of the Abrams and F-16Vs to Taiwan?
And in general, have the U.S.-China trade talks affected this at all?
MR. SCHRIVER: So, what we can do to support Taiwan is faithful implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act. So that has a number of things included in it that relate directly to the military threat Taiwan faces. We do provide Taiwan with weapons of a defensive character for their sufficient self-defense.
We also maintain the capacity to resist force, should our national command authority ask us to do so. So we look at our planning, we look at our own posture, our own capability.
And we do a number of things to assist Taiwan in the defense service area as well. We don’t just sell them weapons that are required for their defense, we support training and we support the professionalization of the military, looking at reserve forces, et cetera.
So we’ll continue faithful implementation of the TRA as the best mechanism to deal with the — with the emerging China threat that they face.
Q: I want to quick, follow up on Taiwan: the F-16 sale. What in the report, what trends in the report, either modernization, tactical or intent trends, justify or give — provide a rationale for the sale of additional new F-16s? And where does that sale stand in terms of the requirements scrub going on?
MR. SCHRIVER: Sure.
Well, I didn’t comment on the — the question on tanks and the possible sale of additional F-16s because we don’t comment on potential sales that are still under consideration.
But I think the threat environment is — is evolving. As I mentioned, the report talks about the possibility of the J-20 fighter coming online in 2019. That’s a fifth-generation fighter. The efforts to diplomatically, politically, economically isolate Taiwan suggest that they need a boost in their own confidence and need to see the support of the United States and other friends and partners.
But the threat is clear and evolving. So the air threat, surface, submarine threat.
China’s own articulation of its goal to become a world-class military by 2049 also speaks to some of their ambitions associated with a capability to affect a Taiwan scenario, should their leaders ask them to do so.
So we — we monitor that and look at the capabilities that would be appropriate for Taiwan’s defense.
Q: Another question.
April 9th, the secretary said that China has fielded an anti-satellite missile unit to an operational Chinese unit. I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere in your report. Can you square the circle?
MR. SCHRIVER: Yeah.
We do talk about China’s space development and their interests. I’m not going to talk about a specific milestone.
We’ve obviously seen them conduct a test in the past; an anti-satellite test, which resulted in the space debris that we’re still all living with.
So I —
MR. SCHRIVER: Well, then it’s still there.
MR. SCHRIVER: So I don’t want to talk about a specific milestone. But we do address in the report China’s interest in space and their modernization efforts. And we know they have a demonstrated capability in the past.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Yes, thank you. Dan Lamothe with the Washington Post.
Economic colonization has been raised as a concern by the Pentagon, broadly, when it comes to China over the last several months. The airstrips in Greenland come to mind as an example.
What’s the message to potential partners that are perhaps economically in a position where they need financial help? You know, the United States assisted in that case, but they probably can’t in every case.
MR. SCHRIVER: Sure, sure.
Well, I think the track record is becoming more and more clear with China’s predatory economics. So I guess one of the messages is buyer beware. If you’re — if you have these development needs and — and China is offering solutions, read the fine print, make sure you understand the terms of the deal, and make sure you understand the track record that has resulted in countries losing, to some degree, sovereign control of their own country because they’re indebted to China and find themselves under enormous Chinese pressure and influence.
I think we can offer alternatives. We can also offer alternatives alongside our partners and allies. So in many cases, development assistance can be produced not only from the United States, but U.S.-Japan solutions, U.S.-Japan-Australia solutions, et cetera.
I don’t think we’re as concerned with the dollar-for-dollar side-by-side comparison with China, because what we offer are clean, transparent, scandal-free approaches that benefit the people of the recipient countries, not just a few of the corrupt elites.
So we — we need to brand that and market that in a way that countries understand that the choice isn’t just one potential source of financing versus another, it’s a — it’s a qualitatively different approach that benefits their country a lot more.
Q: Tony Bertuca, Inside Defense. Thank you.
There is tension between U.S. firms that the Defense Department wants to bring into defense industrial base and those firms’ desire to have access to the Chinese market. Can you tell us what the department’s message is for those companies about doing business in China? Is it either/or? What — what do you have to say to those companies?
MR. SCHRIVER: Yeah.
We want a — a level of awareness for any U.S. company doing business in China, and depending on the sector, where the vulnerabilities might be, and should those companies have an interest in — in doing business with the United States Department of Defense — part of the defense industrial base, understand that there may be potential trade-offs. And — and starting from a position of awareness gives private companies who make can their own decisions the ability to balance the pros and cons.
I mean, I think we are very concerned about being vulnerable and closing those gaps. It’s been a focus of this department. And at some point there might be discrete decision points that companies have to make.
But we start from a position of wanting to have a dialogue and — and spreading the awareness and making sure that we understand and the companies understand what — what those trade-offs may be in the future.
Q: Can you speak a little bit more to the second topic about the Arctic and what that means specifically for the possibility of (suffering ?) from that region for deterrence?
MR. SCHRIVER: The — the report has two special topics, influenced operations and the Arctic, and we’ve seen a lot of recent activity on the part of the Chinese to suggest growing interest on their part in the Arctic. They’ve released their own policy. They — they became an observer to the Arctic Council. They refer to themselves as a near-Arctic state. They’ve announced a Polar Silk Road. They are embarking on the construction of new icebreakers.
So it’s — it looks like there’s a lot of ambition and I think it’s probably multifaceted in terms of their objectives: potential access to resources, shipping routes. But you mentioned an area that we will watch. And whether or not that becomes an access point for — safe harbor for strategic assets, such as ballistic-missile-carrying submarines, it is a possibility in the future and one we’ll watch very closely.
Q: Laura Seligman with Foreign Policy.
Can you tell us what efforts are ongoing to potentially bring China into some kind of new arms control pact to — you mentioned IRBMs and other type of cruise missiles? So what efforts are being pursued and what progress has been made?
MR. SCHRIVER: Well, our conversation at the Department of Defense has largely been about the destabilizing nature of China’s developments and in particularly their deployments.
If you look at how they’re postured with their ballistic and cruise missiles, there’s a significant percentage — Admiral Harris, I think he used to say 90 percent of systems would be non-INF-compliant if they were in fact in the INF.
So we’re focused mostly on the destabilizing nature of that — of those deployments, how we can adapt and respond to — to that environment. We’ll work with our interagency colleagues at the State Department and White House if there’s an interest in pursuing arms-control discussions with the Chinese.
Q: A question on the report, specifically, the report highlights China as the world’s fastest-growing arms supplier with $10 billion particularly to the Middle East between 2013 and 2017. Just — is DOD specifically concerned about China’s growing military sales in the Middle East and how that could impact military-to-military ties, when you look at, as you said, access or potentially crowding out the market for U.S. supplies that are (pretty ?) limited, such as drones, ballistic missiles, others such as that?
MR. SCHRIVER: Yeah.
I think our concerns would be multiple concerns. I think you’ve mentioned some of them.
It’s potentially a tool for them to develop closer defense military ties, potentially, for future access. Obviously, in some instances there is a competitive aspect to it.
We have, of course, a process through which we review foreign military sales, foreign military financing, which is pretty rigorous and — and incorporates a — a broad variety of factors, to include the nature of the regime. China is less disciplined, and so there’s a proliferation risk, as well, to regimes that — that we would regard as not necessarily responsible.
So there’s a — there’s a variety of concerns. I think the report just notes that as — as a point of fact and something that we’ll continue to watch.
Q: Amanda Macias from CNBC.
As the trade talks continue, and given the U.S. deficit which is largely financed by the Chinese and their ambition to develop in the South China Sea, which sees $3.4 million — trillion in trade, I’m just wondering in your calculus, how is the U.S. set to compete with China, given everyone’s bank account?
MR. SCHRIVER: Sure.
So, we do talk about a whole-of-government approach, in our National Security Strategy, to the China challenge. We’re focused, of course, the Defense Department, on aspects of that, and — and we leave it to our interagency partners to deal with the trade issues and — and economic issues.
I think it is a different environment than when we’ve competed in the past with other countries or had — adversaries in the past, that we do have close economic ties and — and are very integrated. And so we’ll — we’ll have to take in — that into account as we pursue this competition.
And by the way, when we talk about competition, we don’t say “enemy,” we don’t say “adversary.” Our expectation is we can compete and not spiral into a conflict or any kind of military confrontation. So we have an expectation that we can address the trade imbalances and the unfair trade practices while we’re competing in the security sphere.
Q: Hi. Kristina Wong with Breitbart News.
Can you discuss China’s footprints right now in the Arctic? How many icebreakers, patrol boats, research stations that they have right now?
MR. SCHRIVER: That’s — now you’re — you’re getting into some very specifics I may have to — may have to return to you on.
But they are investing in all of those areas, including the large icebreakers. They have one in the fleet that’s operational, and I believe they have two more under construction, but I want to check that fact. And then the smaller ice-capable patrol craft.
So as a general matter, it’s a — it’s an area of interest of theirs that we’ve seen them pursue through resourcing and through their activities, including diplomatic activities such as joining the Arctic Council as an observer.
And again, we think they have multifaceted objectives: resources, commercial routes, potential strategic interests.
But the very specific numbers, I can get back to you on.
Q: How are we adjusting to China increasingly using its coast guard and militia — maritime militia to interfere with U.S. naval operations?
MR. SCHRIVER: We — we’re less interested in the color of the hull than the activity and the actions. So what we’re most interested in is China behaving in a manner that’s respectful of international law and norms, and behaving in a manner that is not destabilizing and is more constructive. So we’re less interested — again, if its coast guard and maritime militia or classic gray-hulled navy, if the design is to infringe upon the sovereignty of another country, to provoke — to — in — in the — with the objective of creating some sort of tension that results in a favorable outcome for them, any of that is — is more concerning than the color of the hull.
Q: Chia Chang with United Daily News Group Taiwan.
If China invades Taiwan, will U.S. military help to defend Taiwan?
MR. SCHRIVER: Our law says that any threat to Taiwan — and — and it’s a broad definition of threat, to include economic threats, blockade, et cetera — would be regarded with grave concern in the United States. And the president would consult with the Congress on an appropriate response.
I think our history is clear: When Taiwan has been threatened, the U.S. has responded in an appropriate manner to help support Taiwan. So I think in the future, if we were to — I think it could be well-expected that we would want to see Taiwan be able to preserve its — its status, free from coercion.
But the specific response would be that product of that consultation as our law directs us to do in that event.
Q: Thank you.
Q: You said at the beginning that China’s stated goal is to become a world-class military power by 2049. If the U.S. is the definition of a world-class military power, does that mean China — despite all this erosion in the U.S. military advantage, China is still decades behind?
MR. SCHRIVER: I think as our report points out, there are — they’ve had substantial progress in niche areas. So I think they have areas of excellence such as ballistic and cruise missiles. There’s areas where they’re making rapid progress, cyber and space.
I think the report also suggests where they do need more work. And — and we do look at that as a department. There are things that we do in terms of training, in terms of sophisticated integration of command and control and — and intelligence, that they’re not quite there yet. The training is not as complex as ours.
So there are things that — that they would need to work on in order to achieve that status, but there are certainly areas where they’ve made a lot of progress and I — I would describe as niche areas of excellence.
Q: One — one area you haven’t mentioned is hypersonics.
MR. SCHRIVER: Well, our — our report talks about it. And we note that they’ve tested a hypersonic glide vehicle.
It’s certainly something that we’re concerned about. Our — our budget request this year, for example, talks about need not only to defend against potential developments by other countries, but invest our own research and development in those areas.
So it’s definitely something that we’re tracking and trying to account for.
Q: Is there an estimate for when it would become operational?
MR. SCHRIVER: I don’t have an estimate.
Q: At what point will Chinese — will the Chinese have as many advanced warships and submarines and large bombers as the United States?
MR. SCHRIVER: Well, in some instances, just the total numbers, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to exceed. But when you talk about the number of advanced — so if you’re talking about fifth-generation fighters versus fourth, or you talk about the new class of guided missile cruiser that’s come online versus older platforms — I’m not sure I can give you a precise answer on that.
I mean, I think our hope is, through our own modernization, we maintain the competitive edge. That what — the first pillar of our National Defense Strategy is all about.
And I would also note that the warfighting environment is changing. We talk about that in our National Defense Strategy. So our investment in some of these new domains, it may not be such a simple calculus in the future of how many platforms one side has or another. It’s about maintaining the technological edge, which we’re committed to.
STAFF: Really — really quick, Tony. Just really quick. Time for three more questions.
Q: Does China have a nuclear triad? You suggested in your report that the Jin class is operational. Have they actually done deterrence patrols? And is it accurate to say now China is one of the three nations on Earth with an operational nuclear triad?
MR. SCHRIVER: Yeah.
I — I don’t think I’d be prepared to use those words, but we’re certainly tracking what they’re doing with the — with the ballistic-missile-carrying submarine. And it looks as though, without get — getting specific about a timeline that they’re heading in that direction, so —
Q: Heading in what direction?
MR. SCHRIVER: Toward having — having capable delivery systems in those three domains. To have a true triad involves doctrine, it involves training, a lot of things. So I’d — I’d stay away from a specific point in time, but that’s certainly something they’re heading towards.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Sir, Ben Kesling with the Wall Street Journal.
You said that the — the color of the hulls of the Chinese ships doesn’t matter as much as the activity. Does that mean that the U.S. military considers Chinese coast guard and Chinese People’s Maritime Militia ships to be military vessels? And if so, is that a — is — are they considered to be so at all times, or is there a threshold that they have to cross to be considered as such?
MR. SCHRIVER: No. As I said, it depends on the activity, with respect to how we regard them. If they’re engaged in provocation or infringement on another country’s sovereignty, particularly our allies, then we would treat them differently than if they were doing what we would regard as more normal coast guard activities, or we don’t have necessarily the equivalent of a maritime militia, but peaceful activities.
So I’ll just leave it at the statement I made. We — we are more concerned about the activity and the action, rather than the color of the hull.
Q: Lori Meyer with Washington Times.
So China has a significant involvement in Venezuela. Are there significant matters about China’s involvement that the department is concerned with? And how is the department looking to counter such involvement?
MR. SCHRIVER: Yeah.
I — I think I’ll — I’ll leave the questions to Venezuela to, right now, our State Department and White House and our — our Southern Command, which — I know that the secretary just spoke to a group just before this session, so I’ll leave it at that.
Q: Just a quick question: You mentioned cost of militarization, of the outlook, and that China had not been invited to RIMPAC. Do you see that continuing; that — that down the road, China will not be invited to participate in RIMPAC this year or coming years down the road?
And what other — you mentioned other costs. Is there some other type of costs that you see imminent?
MR. SCHRIVER: What I meant in that remark was that cost imposition is, sort of, part of the toolkit. I don’t know that there any plans to invite China to RIMPAC the next session of it. But in the toolkit, we cannot only do the FONOPS, the presence operations, the capacity building, but cost imposition.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be on point: China does something in the South China Sea; we do something in the South China Sea. Cost imposition can be something else as long as we’re tying it to their activity in the South China Sea in a way that they understand.
STAFF: All right, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming out.
Thank you, ASD Schriver. I appreciate your time.
If there are follow-up questions that you didn’t get to, if there is someone that wasn’t called on, please find me after. We’ll be back in the — in the work spaces.
US Department of Defense