Defense Secretary Esper highlights NATO’s Readiness Initiative against China threats

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Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper speaks at a press conference at NATO headquarters during a defense ministerial, Brussels, Belgium

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER: We also discussed the NATO Readiness Initiative, which is a critical step to re-instilling a culture of readiness throughout the alliance.  We are getting very close to our goal of Four 30s by 2020, and I expect that by the leaders meeting in December, we will have 100% of the contributions identified.

I appreciated our discussion last night on NATO-E.U. cooperation, hybrid threats and the challenges China poses to our security.

I also expressed our concerns about the deepening integration of Chinese telecommunications within European infrastructure.  Chinese telecom firms are closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party, and have a legal obligation to provide technical support and assistance to the government.

NATO allies must carefully consider the long-term risks of the choices they make regarding 5G networks.  The alliance relies on secure and resilient communications for interoperability, intelligence-sharing and military mobility.

I’m pleased that NATO’s moving forward to more thoroughly assess the long-term challenges that a growing and more assertive China presents to the alliance.

Q:  Thank you, Secretary.  My name’s Obil Nakamutawake Onike, Japanese media.

I have a question about China.  You said the biggest threat in the long-term is China (inaudible).  Do you think the NATO member — other NATO member countries share the assessment you have — they have the same assessment as you have?

And let me clarify on the 5G.  Are you telling the other NATO countries to exclude Chinese technology from the (inaudible) communication infrastructure?

Thank you.

SEC. ESPER:  So, I — I can’t speak for all the NATO countries.  But I would tell you, collectively I think the United States has come to a — we realized later than we probably should have, that China is in a strategic competition with us and has some malign purposes with regard to where they want to take the global international order.  And arguably, some of our NATO allies — many of our NATO allies are may be coming late to that realization it’s possible.

And I think for all of us, it’s an education process.  I (inaudible) my first NATO ministerial here in June.  I — I made that point in a couple of different sessions.  I made it again at different times here these past couple of days.

And — and again, I think you have to look.  There’s probably a spectrum of — of where each country is on this issue, but to us it’s a very serious, long-term strategic challenge we need to deal with.  It’s not like — it’s not that we’re looking for China to be an adversary in the future, but their trajectory is not one that we think supports the common values, the common interests, all those things in defense of the international order that have really secured our prosperity, our values and our security for the last 70-plus years.

Source: Press Conference by Secretary Esper at NATO Ministerial, Brussels, Belgium

Edited by staff

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