China on ‘disturbing’ path to eclipse US military by mid-century, Milley warns

Pentagon officials testify before Congress on the China threat

China is on a “worrying” path to becoming militarily “superior” To the United States by mid-century, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testified on Wednesday, while warning that the United States probably will not be able to “stop, slow, disrupt, intercept or destroy” China’s nuclear development program.

Milley testified Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a hearing dedicated to the fiscal year. 2024 Balancing Application for the Ministry of Defense.

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During the hearing, Milley stressed that the United States needed to “go beyond” China’s development, especially its military might.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley speaks with reporters after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Liaison Group at the Pentagon, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Washington, DC.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley speaks with reporters after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Liaison Group at the Pentagon, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“They have a national goal of being global — to be global — on par with the United States and militarily superior by mid-century,” Milley said. “They’re on this path of doing it and it’s really annoying. This is really annoying.”

Milley added, “We’re going to have to not only keep up the pace, but get over it, and that’s going to ensure peace.”

US intelligence agencies assessed this month that Beijing is “accelerating” the development of the core capabilities the People’s Liberation Army needs to “confront the United States in a sustained, large-scale conflict.” Officials said the PLA’s efforts were aimed at “deterring US involvement in a future crisis across the strait”.

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On Wednesday, Milley also warned about China’s nuclear development programme, which the intelligence community highlighted in its annual threat assessment earlier this month.

“We probably won’t be able to do anything to stop slowing, disrupting, intercepting or destroying the Chinese nuclear development program that they predicted over the next 10 to 20 years,” Milley said. “They will do it according to their own plan.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Moscow on Tuesday, March 21.  The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the West's reaction to Xi's visit was "hostile."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Moscow on Tuesday, March 21. The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the West’s reaction to Xi’s visit had been “hostile.” (Photo by Mikhail Tereshchenko/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool)

“And there’s very little leverage, I think, that we can do externally to prevent that from happening,” he added.

The intelligence community has warned that Beijing is strengthening its capabilities in domestic defense production of weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional weapons. The intelligence community has also warned that China is building hundreds of new silos for ICBMs.

Even today, Milley said, China has a “significant” nuclear capability.

“They have intercontinental ballistic missiles that the United States can range,” Milley said. “Obviously, this is annoying.”

Milley warned of the growing alliance between China and Russia and told lawmakers on Wednesday that the two countries were “moving closer together,” especially on nuclear capabilities.

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“It’s annoying,” Millie said. “And then, if you add Iran as the third country — those three countries together are going to be problematic for many years to come.”

As for China and Russia, Milley warned that the United States is currently facing “two nuclear-armed superpowers.”

Intelligence agencies said this month that Russia maintains “the largest and most capable stockpile of nuclear weapons, and continues to expand and modernize its nuclear weapons capabilities.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping poses for a group photo with deputies from the delegation of the Chinese People's Liberation Army and People's Armed Police Force in March.

Chinese President Xi Jinping poses for a group photo with deputies from the delegation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police Force in March. (Photo by Li Gang/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The security of Russian nuclear materials also remains a concern for the United States, despite improvements in material protection, oversight, and accounting at Russian nuclear sites since the 1990s.

Regarding Iran, Milley said that Tehran “is taking measures to improve its capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon.”

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Milley warned that “since the Iranian decision was passed, Iran could produce enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks, and it would only take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon.”

China is sending satellites into space which constitutes a change in security in space.  A rocket carrying a satellite launches into space in Sichuan Province, China.

China is sending satellites into space which constitutes a change in security in space. A rocket carrying a satellite launches into space in Sichuan Province, China. (Li Jieyi/VCG via Getty Images)

“The United States remains committed as policy that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon,” he continued, adding that the US military “has developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider, if or when Iran decides to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Milley’s testimony comes after the Pentagon submitted its largest-ever budget request for fiscal year 2024 at $842 billion, up 3.2% from fiscal year 2023.

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The Pentagon referred to the “serious” Threats posed by Russia In its request, China urged Congress to take measures to approve the budget immediately, noting that delay is a serious threat when facing an adversary like China.

The US announcement comes just weeks after China announced its $230 billion military budget, up 7.6% from last year.

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