Greenville (US), October 16:

China and Russia are attempting to erode America’s hard-earned gains as they undermine international rules, norms and use coercion against other nations for their own benefit, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said.

Speaking at a webinar organised by a think-tank Heritage Foundation on Thursday, Esper said he has directed the National Defense University to refocus its curriculum by dedicating 50 per cent of the coursework to China by academic year 2021.

“Today 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,” Esper 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 neighbors,” he added.

Esper said he has tasked the military services to make the People’s Liberation Army as pacing threat in professional schools, programmes and training.    

“I also tasked the military services to make the People’s Liberation Army pacing threat in our professional schools, programs, and training. Another critical factor in our readiness is the size and composition of our deployable force, which we now track in ways we never did before,” he said.

Reiterating that the US needs predictable, adequate, stable and timely federal budgets to continue to support the investments of its industrial base to grow capabilities and to further strengthen readiness, Esper said that he would like to see three per cent to five per cent annual real growth for the Defense Department to stay ahead of the challenges the US faces, especially from China.

Esper said that in April this year, he approved an Air Force construct to improve the readiness and strategic flexibility of the bomber force moving away from a 16-year static and predictable presence on Guam that was burning down readiness.

“This change was also necessary to complicate Beijing’s decision-making and prevent them from targeting our assets or limiting our range with their growing capabilities,” he said.

“The impact of the bomber task force concept extends beyond the Indo-Pacific, however offering a range of options to combatant commanders in multiple theaters, including Europe,” he added.

In August, six B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base supported by a robust airborne tanker brigade overflew all 30 NATO countries in a single day, integrating with Allied fighter aircraft along the way, he said.

“This robust show of force by a broad coalition did not go unnoticed by Moscow, neither did its ability to rapidly deploy our bombers anywhere at any time, sending a strong message of US commitment to its allies and partners, Esper said.