In Melbourne, Mullen keeps US sights on China, Iran
In Melbourne to meet with his Australian counterparts, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen stressed US interest in assessing China's growing military capabilities.
When America’s top military officer gets together with his counterparts from other countries, he generally asks for their advice about China.Skip to next paragraph
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China’s capabilities include considerable cyberespionage expertise and a robust Navy, fruits of a growing defense budget in a country that largely escaped the impact of the global financial crisis.
These trends are troubling to US military officials, who are seeking to expand American military presence in the Pacific.
“We’re very anxious to make sure that no one thinks we’re walking away from here – because we’re not,” Admiral Mullen says.
China’s efforts to flex its muscle in recent years have at times sent shockwaves through the Pentagon, including the successful ballistic missile shoot-down of one of its own orbiting satellites in 2007, a feat widely seen as an ominous move toward the militarization of space. “I’m increasingly concerned about where China seems to be heading with that,” Mullen says.
It’s a topic that was under discussion at this week’s annual Australia-United States ministerial security meeting, in wide-ranging talks that included condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program and how best to fend off cyberattacks.
On the former point, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in one of the more notable moments of a Monday joint press conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Australian officials that he disagreed with the notion that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to end its nuclear weapons program.
“We are prepared to do what is necessary, but at this point we continue to believe that the political economic approach that we are taking is in fact having an impact in Iran,” he added.