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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.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

North Korea fires projectile in 3rd launch this month, Seoul says

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday of a North Korean missile test. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired an "unidentified projectile" eastward on Friday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, per Yonhap news agency.

Why it matters: North Korea's third launch in just over a week came hours after state media warned that its military would take "stronger and certain reaction" if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.

Austin's big year for VC funding

Expand chart
Data: PitchBook & NVCA; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Despite the pandemic and labor shortages, Austin's venture capital industry in 2021 continued to boom.

The big picture: Startup funding flowed in Austin last year, delivering 387 deals valued at a record-setting $4.9 billion — or 211% growth compared to the previous year — per data from PitchBook.

  • The investments range from seed money to later stage rounds, a sign Austin serves to benefit brand-new startups as well as growing companies.
Nov 16, 2021 - World

Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

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