U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday cast China as a rising threat to world order — saying the world’s most populous nation steals Western know-how, intimidates smaller neighbors and seeks an “advantage by any means and at any cost.” A frequent critic of China, Esper used an address to an international security conference in Munich, Germany, to give his most comprehensive condemnation yet of a communist country that he said tops the Pentagon’s list of potential adversaries, followed by Russia, “rogue states” like North Korea and Iran, and continuing threats from extremist groups. “The Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction — more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture,” he said. Esper stressed that the United States does not want conflicts with China, and noted that the U.S. government has provided medical supplies to help China combat a coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 67,000 people. Still, he said Beijing has made clear its long-term intentions and said Europe and the rest of the world must “wake up” to the threats that China poses. “The Communist Party and its associated organs, including the People’s Liberation Army, are increasingly operating in theaters outside its borders, including Europe, and seeking advantage by any means, and at any cost,” he said. “While we often doubt the transparency and forthrightness of Beijing, when it comes to their security aims, we should take the Chinese government at its word,” he said. “They have said that by 2035, the PRC intends to complete its military modernization, and, by 2049, it seeks to dominate Asia as the preeminent global military power.” With words that echoed the Trump administration’s criticisms of Iran, Esper said China represses its people and threatens its neighbors. “We want China to behave like a normal country,” Esper said, adding “and that means the Chinese government needs to change its policies and behaviors.” Esper and his immediate predecessor, Jim Mattis, have sought to shift the main focus of U.S. military and security policy toward China and away from small wars against insurgents and extremists. U.S. allies in Europe, while concerned about China’s rise, are more immediately worried about Russia.
Army Secretary Mark Esper was named the new acting secretary of defense by President Trump on Tuesday after Patrick Shanahan withdrew his nomination. Esper, 56, has acted as the 23rd Secretary of the United States Army since Nov. 17, 2017. His duties included the recruitment, organization, training, equipping and care of 1.4 million active duty, National Guard, Reserve Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and their families, according to his Pentagon biography. Before becoming Army secretary, he held executive positions at Raytheon, defense contractor. He was most recently the vice president for government relations. Esper graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986 — the same year as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He received his commission in the infantry and completed Ranger and Pathfinder training. Following his service on active duty, he served in both the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard and Army Reserve. He retired in 2007. His experience extends to Capitol Hill, where he has held several posts. He previously served Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist as a national security advisor and Senator Chuck Hagel as his legislative director and senior policy advisor. He was also responsible for national security issues as a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations and Government Affairs committees. At the Pentagon, he served on the Army staff as a war planner before becoming the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Negotiations Policy) in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His military awards and honors include the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medal — Saudi Arabia and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He also received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
Dr. Esper also has a Masters from Harvard and a PhD from George Washington Univ. He left the military as a Lieutenant Colonel (O-5). Sounds like a very qualified nominee. We wish Dr. Esper good luck in this new appointment! 🙂