Now Hear This

By The Honorable Ike Skelton

Yet, there is still much progress to be achieved and we must remain vigilant in those areas that have the potential to harm relations. We continue to see troubling trends and ambiguities regarding China's military modernization, including a missile buildup across from Taiwan and the steady increase of power-projection capabilities which do not obviously support any of China's stated national security objectives. China's most recent military budget continues a trend of double-digit increases and its strategic intentions remain opaque to nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This was highlighted most recently by China's missile-intercept test on 11 January and by the cyber attacks on Google. Such attacks undermine the ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace, which is critical in a modern society and economy.

Militarily, the United States must remain prepared for whatever the future holds in the U.S.-China security relationship. As cooperation is in our national interest, we must first and foremost prepare for a cooperative relationship. However, we must also be prepared for less favorable outcomes. China is not the only, or the most critical, security challenge we might confront in the near future. For this reason, U.S. defense planning need not and should not concentrate on China the way it did on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. A focus on enduring U.S. strategic interests such as maintaining secure international sea lanes and U.S. global power-projection capabilities will go far in ensuring that we are prepared if the U.S.-China security relationship takes a detour down the wrong path.

The United States must carefully examine its policies and actions with respect to China to confirm that they effectively address the challenges and opportunities arising from a rapidly changing geo-strategic landscape. But they must also reflect a long-term vision for U.S.-China security relations that best supports our national, regional, and global security interests.

I continue to believe China is not necessarily destined to be a threat to the United States. Likewise, China need not view the United States as a threat to its interests. Yet we must each be mindful that our actions can produce unintended consequences. Cooperation is a difficult path, but it is ultimately the path that is in the best interest of both nations.

Representative Skelton (D-MO) is the Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services.

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