President Donald Trump’s new national security advisor doesn’t seem inclined to give China a pass in the South China Sea.
Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who replaced retired Gen. Michael Flynn, called China a threat that is “challenging U.S. interests at the far reaches of American power” in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last summer.
The Chinese are striving “to expand territory and expand their influence at the expense of U.S. interests and the security of our partners in the region,” he explained.
“You could characterize what’s going on in the South China Sea, for example, as territorial expansion, and in this case really the development of landmass to project power outward from land into the maritime and aerospace domains, to restrict freedom of movement and action in those domains, and to – and to secure Chinese influence across those domains,” McMaster remarked, adding, “This is militarily analogous to what Russia’s done in Ukraine.”
He also called China out for engaging in “cyberattacks, information warfare, a sophisticated economic effort to undermine the post-World War II economic order in the region,” as well as “the largest theft of intellectual property in history.”
Interestingly, McMaster views Chinese power projection into the South China Sea as a lesson for the U.S. military.
“China is giving an example,” he explained. China is “actually building land so they can project power outward from land,” highlighting the importance of land forces in the Asia-Pacific region.
“I think this is in large measure an object lesson for the joint force,” McMaster added, commenting, “Using land as a way to influence other domains, I think is important.”
He pointed out that Japan used a similar approach during World War II. “It was an offensive over land to establish control of the inner and outer island chains, … but really trying to then consolidate control of territory to project power outward from land into the maritime domains, and just make it too costly for the United States to penetrate those defenses.”
McMaster has an excellent understanding of history and military strategy, and he sees a larger role for the Army in Asia-Pacific region. “Land forces are important throughout Asia,” he asserted. His views are consistent with the Army’s Multi-Domain Battle concept, which puts emphasis on downing aircraft, sinking ships, hacking networks, and jamming transmissions to support naval and air operations in the region.
He stressed that the U.S. needs to advance its capabilities “prevent war” by demonstrating American strength, a position consistent with that which Trump has repeatedly advocated.
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