Dec 2, 2021 - World

U.S. defense chief denounces China hypersonic missile pursuit

 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L)  with South Korea's defense minister Suh Wook (R) during a welcoming ceremony  on December 02, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook during a ceremony with in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday. Photo: Ahn Young-Joon - Pool/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday the U.S. would "maintain the capabilities to defend and deter" threats from China's government and warned the country's hypersonic weapons program was increasing regional tensions.

Driving the news: Austin made the comments in Seoul after meeting with his South Korean counterpart to discuss regional security matters, including threats posed by China's government and the North Korean regime, which he also expressed concern about.

Threat level: Weapons experts are concerned that China's hypersonic missiles could evade U.S. missile defenses, though the Chinese government maintains it was testing a "reusable space vehicle," AP notes.

What he's saying: "We have concerns about the military capabilities that [China's government] continues to pursue," Austin said at a briefing. "[T]he pursuit of those capabilities increases tensions in the region."

  • On North Korea, Austin said he and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook discussed how the country was "continuing to advance its missile and weapons programs, which is increasingly destabilizing for regional security," but the two allies were committed to diplomacy with Pyongyang.
  • Austin also expressed concern at a Russian military buildup near Ukraine's border region, calling on transparency by President Vladimir Putin over the matter. "The best case is that we won't see an incursion," he said.
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