Defense Secretary Esper: China "Has Studied Us," Expanding Military To "Push U.S. Out" Of The Region

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Fox News Wednesday that China is the Pentagon's "number one priority" and poses a greater long-term threat than Russia.

In his first interview since his confirmation, Esper told Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin that China has engaged in the "greatest theft of intellectual property in human history" and" they've studied us and they've learned about how we employ weapons, they've learned about our doctrine.”





"China is the number one priority for this department. It’s outlined in the National Defense Strategy, why we think it’s a long-term strategic competitor and one that is pursuing a maximization campaign, if you will, throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater, whether it’s politically, economically, or militarily," he added. "They are clearly professionalizing and expanding the capacity and capabilities of the military in order to push the United States out of that theater."

FOX NEWS, JENNIFER GRIFFIN: There is a new report from the University of Sydney that presents a pretty withering assessment of Chinese military abilities compared to the US and Asia suggesting that Chinese missiles could overtake U.S. bases within a matter of hours. You made your first trip to Asia as defense secretary. Is that because you view China as the greatest national security threat to the United States?

ESPER: Well, China is the number one priority for this department. We think it's a long-term strategic competitor. We're not pulling out of the region.

GRIFFIN: Does China or Russia pose a greater threat to the United States right now?

ESPER: I think in the long term China is the greater challenge given its economic might its political weight and its ambitions. They've they studied us in the years since Gulf War 1 which is my war they've studied us and they've learned about how we employ weapons they've learned about our doctrine.

GRIFFIN: The F-16 sales to Taiwan have angered China. Isn't that provocative on the U.S. part and will there be more arms sales to Taiwan?

ESPER: This is not the first administration to sell arms to Taiwan and certainly not the first to sell F-16 either so I expect they will continue.

GRIFFIN: But it's coming at a sensitive time and trade talks.

ESPER: I mean it always seems to come at a sensitive time for China.

GRIFFIN: Are they still stealing U.S. technology?

ESPER: Absolutely. I mean they've been stealing intellectual property for many years now.

GRIFFIN: Why haven't you been able to stop it?

ESPER: It's a state run organized effort.

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