John Rood, the US undersecretary of defense for policy, said that China topped the list of the threats to the US as it had the ability to change life in America for “good or ill.”
China is “the one country, the largest country, with the ability to change our way of life in the United States, and change the global order, for good or ill,” he told the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado on Saturday.
“It's promoting an authoritarian model, and it's closely coupled with military activities: Strategic military activities, intelligence activities and the line between commercial activities in today’s China and those of the state is a very, very thin line that exists mostly on paper,” Rood added, Presstv Reported.
Beijing and Washington have come to blows over a series of issues ranging from trade to ties with Taiwan over the past few months.
US President Donald Trump has imposed heavy tariffs on Chinese good, accusing China of using unfair business practices to abuse American companies and take advantage from the country’s trade laws.
The Trump administration has angered China by pushing ahead with weapons sales to Taiwan, breaking with the One China policy that recognizes the island as part of the Chinese mainland.
Trump has also drew fire from Chinese officials by authorizing more so-called “freedom of navigation” operation by the US Navy in the South China Sea, over with Beijing claims sovereignty.
On Saturday, Washington accused Beijing of hampering obstruction of oil and gas activities in the South China Sea, including exploration and production efforts by Vietnam, one of the several countries that challenge China’s sovereignty claims over the waters.
“The United States firmly opposes coercion and intimidation by any claimant to assert its territorial or maritime claims,” read a statement by the US state department on Saturday, which added: “China should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity.
The four-day Aspen forum saw other US officials also echo Rood’s claims about the world’s most populous nation.
Retired general Tony Thomas said the challenge posed by China in the field of technology eclipsed any similar threat the US had faced in almost two decades.
“This is an area where we have lacked competition, in terms of peer competition,” he said during a panel discussion in Aspen.
Chris Brose, a former director of the armed services committee responsible for funding and oversight of the US defense department, called on the Pentagon to keep an eye on China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea as well as on its border with India.
“There is an expansiveness that I think is concerning, and I don’t know where it ends,” he said. “I think that’s ultimately what the United States needs to focus on … having the ability to deter expansionist and aggressive acts on the part of China.”
‘Russia developing tactical nukes for war with US’
Rood also said during the event that Russia’s military doctrine presented a challenge to Washington’s nuclear deterrence concept, accusing Moscow of developing tactical nuclear weapons designed for attacking the US.
He also accused Moscow of boosting its tactical nuclear capabilities while "we haven’t produced a new nuclear weapon in this country in decades."
To counter the Russian strategy, he said, the Trump administration has revised a Nuclear Posture Review that mainly addresses the threat coming from Russia. Rood noted that the US would use nuclear weapons if it ever comes under nuclear attack.
"What we are doing under the Nuclear Posture Review is modernizing our nuclear deterrent, because we have to maintain a vital and capable nuclear deterrent. We also have to look across that spectrum and say, where there is a destabilizing activity, where we can restore deterrence, where is deterrence challenged," Rood said.
"And that challenge we think is in the Russian doctrine that seems to believe that at a certain level they could use small nuclear weapons against the United States and our allies and not face a similar response," he added.
The US under secretary of defense repeated long-running US claims that Moscow was in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
Singed in 1987, the treaty banned the US and the former Soviet Union from developing ground-launched nuclear-capable missiles with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
The US for the first time accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty in July 2014 and has repeated the allegation many times since. Moscow has strongly dismissed the claims.
Trump announced on February 1 that Washington was suspending the treaty and would fully withdraw in six months if Russia doesn’t dismantle the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, which he said was in violation of the INF.
On February 2, Putin also suspended Russia’s participation in the treaty. Moscow has rebuffed the US claims by showcasing the missile and releasing its sensitive details to journalists.
The US is planning to test two new missiles, one of them a nuclear-tipped cruise missile, once the six-month deadline to fully withdraw from the INF comes to an end in August.
Rood said Saturday that the US was taking the necessary steps to confront China and Russia.
"We have to also … be concerned about the future and we work with others to persuade the Chinese, the Russians that these sorts of approaches are not stabilizing, that they are not going to lead to the sort of security they want," he said.