US military academics will devote half of their coursework to understanding China to more effectively counter Beijing’s “aggression”, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said on Thursday.
“As part of our top-10 goal to focus the department on China, I directed the National Defence University to refocus its curriculum by dedicating 50 per cent of the coursework to China by academic year 2021,” Esper said in a speech delivered at Washington-based think tank The Heritage Foundation.
“I also tasked the military services to make the People’s Liberation Army the pacing threat in our professional schools, programmes and training.”
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The National Defence University is run by the Pentagon, offering graduate programmes mostly for members of the US military and the State Department, and is a key resource in the development of America’s national defence strategy.
The top military commander also touted a plan to have a naval force of 500 ships within the next 25 years, up from just under 300 currently, an initiative that Esper has termed “Battle Force 2045” and is aimed at maintaining an edge over the Chinese military.
“We need to produce this fleet … a combination of manned and unmanned, to make sure that we could do that, that we can fight into the years ahead, and then do all the other stuff; the forward presence, control sea lanes, and then reassure our allies and partners,” he said.
The Pentagon has warned recently that Beijing aims to “transform the [People’s Liberation Army] into a ‘world-class’ military by the end of 2049”, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, an objective that was underscored on Tuesday when Chinese President Xi Jinping told his country’s marines to prepare for war.
According to a report by state broadcaster CCTV, Xi told troops stationed in Guangdong province to “focus your minds and energy on preparing to go to war, and stay highly vigilant”.
Esper opened his speech with a warning about Chinese aggression in disputed territories in the seas off Guangdong’s coast.
“Our strategic competitors China and Russia are attempting to erode our hard-earned gains, as they undermine international rules and norms and use coercion against other nations for their own benefit,” he said.
“We continue to see this behaviour globally from Beijing‘s predatory economics and its aggression in the South and East China seas, to Moscow’s violations of its international obligations, and the sovereignty of its neighbours.”
Esper ’s comments follow the Pentagon report, released publicly last month, that China may have surpassed American military capabilities in the area of missile development and shipbuilding, and is likely to double its nuclear warhead stockpile over the next decade.
The annual report to US lawmakers, known informally as the “China Military Power Report”, portrays the rapid development of China’s armed forces as part of its government’s plan to achieve a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049 and “revise the international order”.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has more than 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges of up to 5,500km (3,400 miles), compared with the US military’s single type of conventional GLBM, which is limited to a range of 70km to 300km (43 to 186 miles), and no GLCMs, according to the report.
More from South China Morning Post:
- US warship’s Taiwan passage undermined peace and stability: Chinese military
- Xi Jinping tells marines to focus on ‘preparing to go to war’ in military base visit during southern China tour
- Chinese military mounts live-fire test of new anti-tank missile in ‘Taiwan drill’
- Chinese military stages island invasion drill during Taiwan’s ‘Double Tenth’ holiday
This article US military academics to devote half of coursework to China, says defence chief first appeared on South China Morning Post