U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s stern comments after annual security talks with South Korea, a top U.S. ally, are a window into one of the Biden administration’s top foreign policy worries: How should Washington and its partners contain a Chinese military that is strengthening — both in sheer firepower and in confidence — as it pursues an end of American dominance in Asia?
China sees much of Asia as its natural sphere of influence. But many in the region warn of a pattern of Chinese interference, accompanied by moves to acquire the weapons needed to dominate its rivals. Austin’s comments were directed at China’s July test of a hypersonic weapon capable of partially orbiting Earth before reentering the atmosphere and gliding on a maneuverable path to its target. Experts say the weapons system is clearly designed to evade U.S. missile defenses, although China insisted it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a missile.