In this era of great power competition, China will emerge as America's strategic threat, a top Pentagon official has said, reiterating the need of ramping up US presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Having the US Army in the region strengthens America's position to conduct global commerce, build confidence with investors and compete economically, US Secretary of Army Ryan D McCarthy told a Washington audience on Tuesday.
"In this era of great power competition, China will emerge as America's strategic threat. Over 60 per cent of the world's GDP flows through the Straits of Malacca, and China is militarising the global commons," he said in his address to the Brookings Institute think-tank.
"In order to commoditise life for its 1.1 billion people, China is increasingly relying on its Belt and Road Initiative, having the US Army in the region with modernised weaponry, and this alongside our counterparts, changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries," he said.
According to McCarthy, the Indo-Pacific region is strategically important to the US, which is an Indo-Pacific country. "The world's foremost populous countries and three largest economies are located in the region. Six of the 10 largest armies in the world are located there. The US maintains five bilateral treaties, all critical for our national security and prosperity.
"Forces in the region reinforce the American narrative or alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative. And in order to be competitive and gain an advantage, we must have continuous presence. In order to maintain over-match and prevent conflict in the region, the US Army must be postured in the region for the intensifying competition, and if required, to win in conflict," McCarthy said.
Observing that there is an ongoing fight for influence in the region, for which axis and presence are critical, McCarthy said that partners matter but the type of partner is paramount. "China uses coercive economics and many partner with them out of necessity and in this lies a great deal of vulnerability," he added.