World must ‘wake up to the challenges presented by China,’ says US Defense Secretary

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper called on the international community to “wake up to the challenges presented by China,” telling an audience of world leaders and top policymakers on Saturday that America’s concerns about China should also be Europe’s concerns, according to CNN.

“It is essential that we — as an international community — wake up to the challenges presented by China’s manipulation of the long-standing international, rules-based order,” Esper said, adding that China is now the Pentagon’s top concern.

The Trump administration had been pressing European allies for a total ban on Huawei products, alleging that Beijing could use the equipment for snooping.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended against criticism that the US had retreated from the world stage.

“I’m happy to report that the death of the trans-Atlantic alliance is grossly exaggerated. The West is winning, and we’re winning together,” Pompeo said in a speech.

“We led 81 nations in the global fight to take out the ISIS caliphate,” he said. “Is this an America that rejects the international community?”

US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was the first to talk at the Munich Security Conference. Her remarks on China bluntly underlined bipartisan suspicion of Huawei in the United States. Pelosi backed Trump’s warning to European allies that letting Chinese telecom giant Huawei build their 5G next-generation communication network poses a grave security threat.

“Such an ill-conceived concession will only embolden [Chinese President Xi Jinping] as he undermines democratic values, human rights, economic independence and national security.”

“Why is it ok for China to use Western tech for years, but now the West can’t use Chinese tech?” a representative from China’s National People’s Congress asked from the audience. “Are your democratic systems really that fragile that they are endangered by Huawei?”

Tensions with China

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper criticized China for “seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor,”  referring to telecommunications firm Huawei.

“Over time we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea and rapidly modernize the armed forces,” he said.

He said China is increasingly trying to co-opt state and local officials in the US and around the world, and to influence other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The smaller the country, the heavier the hand of Beijing,” Esper said.

He also touched on fear of China’s military development. “When it comes to their security gains, we should take the Chinese government at their word. They have said that by 2035, the military intends to complete its modernization, and by 2049, it seeks to dominate Asia as the pre-eminent global military power.”

Esper accused China of a “nefarious strategy” through telecommunications firm Huawei.

China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed US criticism as “lies,” shortly after Pompeo criticised China’s desire for an “empire.”

All these accusations against China are lies, not based on facts,” said Wang. “But if we replace the subject of the lie from China to America, maybe those lies become facts.”

In his opening speech at the annual Munich Security Conference, Germany’s president  Frank-Walter Steinmeier took an indirect swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday in accusing Washington, China and Russia of stoking global mistrust and insecurity with a “great powers” competition” that could threaten a new nuclear arms race.

“China…accepts international law only selectively where it does not run counter to its own interests,” Steinmeier said.

Other German officials were also surprisingly outspoken. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, called on Germany and Europe to take on a greater international security role in light of evolving relations with the US.

“For too long, we, Europeans, have shut our eyes to the uncomfortable reality of what the withdrawal of the US from military engagement and from international treaties means for us,” Maas said, opening a discussion on the changing nature of the international order and multilateralism.

Mass then did step closer to the French vision, calling for the “construction of a European security and defence union” but only “as a strong, European pillar of NATO.”

Responding to an offer made earlier this week by Macron, he also said Germany is prepared to discuss a European strategy related to France’s nuclear weapon arsenal.

Edited by staff
Source: CNN, DE., Eurativ

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