Austin targets China in security forum address: ‘China is not 10 feet tall’

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin targeted China in his address Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum, telling Fox News’ Bret Baier, “China is not 10 feet tall.”

“America is a Pacific power,” Austin said. “The Indo-Pacific is a region of great opportunity and real challenges. One of those challenges is the emergence of an increasingly assertive and autocratic China.”

Austin joined other top leaders in the defense industry Saturday to express the importance of strengthening ties between the U.S. and allied nations, not only in the Pacific but globally.

Experts have been sounding the alarm on the threat that China and Russia pose as both nations continue to build up aggressive defenses not seen since World War II.

“We’re facing a formidable challenge,” the defense chief said. “In war and in peace we are always stronger when we work together with our friends.”

Austin said the U.S. will not force nations to choose between ties with the U.S. or China. The Biden administration is looking to bolster deterrence against Chinese aggression over Taiwan, not change the status quo in the region, the defense secretary said.

Tensions between the U.S. and China have continued to escalate in the Indo-Pacific as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) moves to “reunify” Taiwan with its mainland.

Taiwan identifies as a sovereign nation, but it is officially recognized by China, the United Nations and the U.S. as part of the “one-China” policy under the Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances.

Officials repeatedly said Saturday that the U.S. is continuing to adhere to the one-China policy while remaining devoted to backing Taiwanese defenses.

“We’re clear-eyed about the challenge China presents,” Austin told Fox News. “But China’s not 10 feet tall – this is America.”

China’s defense ambitions have spread outside its expansion into the Indo-Pacific.

The CCP has continued its efforts to expand their nuclear program and ballistic missile testing – prompting greater cause for concern amongst security officials regarding U.S. defense capabilities.

“We have the greatest innovators in the world, and we’re going to do what’s necessary to create the capabilities that help us maintain the competitive edge going forward,” he added.

“We’re in competition with China, but we don’t have to be in a conflict,” Austin said.

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