In a new interview with Fox Business Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged China with stealing American secrets and in the process made its military lethal, engaging in “a very significant arms buildup”. Pompeo described China's military strength as involving “not only in the quantity of arms, but in their lethality, their capability and their capacity.”
And further Beijing has clearly grown bolder even as President Trump holds a firm line in an ongoing trade war, he said, more frequently "pushing boundaries up against places where they normally fly" — in response to which the US military has increased its presence “in those very same places, to ensure that U.S. commercial traffic can continue to have access to those sea-lanes.” However, the secretary of state noted he doesn’t believe the U.S. will go to war with China in the near future, according by Bloomberg.
So clearly the “trade war” is more than about trade, also given that China's fast rising defense budge - at $250 billion in 2018 - has accompanied a turf war of sorts which has been growing hot in the Indo-Pacific over the past year especially.
“So your point about Chinese ships sailing in places that they haven’t sailed before, Chinese aircraft flying, with more frequently pushing boundaries up against places where they would normally fly, is a very real risk,” he told Fox's Maria Bartiromo in the Wednesday interview.
“And it’s something that the United States Department of Defense has pushed back against, too. You’ve seen increased frequency of our activities in those very same places, to ensure that U.S. commercial traffic can continue to have access to those sea-lanes. They’re very important for our economy and for America’s economic growth,” he explained.
He identified Huawei's ties to the Chinese Communist Party as among the greatest pressing threats to US economic and national security: “Huawei is an instrument of the Chinese government. They’re deeply connected. It’s something that's hard for Americans to understand,” he said.
But perhaps the most interesting and crucial part of Pompeo's statements came while discussing the US' necessary defense and deterrence posture against China's military advances. Pompeo expressed hope that strong deterrence means "We don't ever have to send our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines to a war."
He added of the possibility of a future direct military conflict between Washington and Beijing:
"I can't imagine that happening among these two superpowers."
Pompeo said the US worries about the "real" threat of the "theft of military technology" but when pressed over whether China specifically stole stealth technology for its latest cutting edge jets and subs, Pompeo refrained from voicing agreement with the specific accusation.
Interestingly, throughout the interview the Fox host appeared much more hawkish on China, with Pompeo - certainly a neocon himself- coming off as surprisingly restrained and balanced while rejecting the interviewer's attempts to push him into saying that future war is all but inevitable and imminent.