British Prime Minister Declares China Presents an ‘Epoch-Defining Challenge’

China is a “systemic threat” to the U.K., British Prime Minister Rishi Sonak stated Sunday. The U.K. government announced that it would spend $6 billion more on its nuclear-armed submarine fleet and to replenish munitions stocks to support Ukraine and to deter an assertive China .

Mr. Sunak spoke out about China during an interview. Its behavior indicates it intends to do so, but its actions also show that it is interested in changing the world order. That’s what the crux of the matter.

Washington’s Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Sunday’s announcement by the British government indicated that the extra funds would be used over the next two-years to strengthen its military. The country’s nuclear program would receive the bulk of these funds, as well as enhanced support for its submarine fleet. To replace equipment it gave to Ukraine in the war with Russia, the government is purchasing new ammunition supplies.

This boost in military spending is as Mr. Sunak travels from London to San Diego to meet with President Biden, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanesee to discuss a defense technology pact. As part of an effort to strengthen military capabilities in the Pacific region, China has been pushing for territorial dominance, the so-called Aukus agreement would give Australia nuclear submarines.

The increased British stance towards China mirrors the growing concern of U.S. national security officials about what they perceive as a greater threat from China. This includes a militarily-involved South China Sea, technologically in critical areas, and diplomatically around the world. China’s recent role in brokering steps towards a rapprochement with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“The threats to our safety are increasing, and the world has become more volatile,” Mr. Sunak stated. “We must cooperate with and outcompete our enemies as allies.”

In the meantime, the invasion of Ukraine has forced European countries to reassess their military-spending plans in an effort to counter Russian belligerence, and to help Ukraine repel Russian forces who invaded over a year ago. After the U.S., Britain is the largest donor of military equipment for Ukraine. It advocated for Ukraine to receive more advanced capabilities, including longer-range weapons to maximize its advantage in a possible counteroffensive against Russian forces.

France and Germany suggested recently that Ukraine could have the best chance of success on battlefield. However, neither Ukraine nor Russia have indicated any willingness to engage. There are many thorny issues, including whether Ukraine should insist that Crimea be restored to its territorial sovereignty.

“If we can get Ukraine what they need, including air defense, artillery and heavy armor in the form tanks and longer-range weaponry, then that is the key capability and support they require now to ensure the offensive has the best chance of success,” Mr. Sunak stated. He refused to give a time frame or define the scope of any peace negotiations.

He stated that Ukraine has the right to determine what is an appropriate settlement for its own country. “I see our job as putting them into the best possible position to do so, whenever they feel it is appropriate.”

The possibility of security assurances to Ukraine by its Western allies has been raised. This could allow Ukraine to be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in an effort to stop any Russian aggression.

Mr. Sunak stated that “some kind of longer-form security relationship has to be part the equation here: To provide Ukraine with security and collective security that is shared on the European continent,” but he also said that the current focus is on training Ukrainian armed force personnel on NATO-standard equipment.

Britain offered Ukraine more than 12 Challenger II tanks in an effort to inspire allies to do the same. To allow Ukraine to strike far behind its front lines, the U.K. recently provided long-range missiles. Recently, Mr. Sunak met with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President and vowed to send fighter jets to the country. The U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace explained that the planes would be most likely sent after the current conflict is over.

As they try to implement their ambitious strategy of strengthening European defenses against Russian aggression, and increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific, the five billion-pound military investment announced Sunday was less than officials at the U.K. Ministry of Defense hoped. The U.K. Defense Chiefs requested a budget increase of approximately PS11 billion to add to the PS71 billion that the country spent on defense last year.

However, the government’s budget has been stretched since the worst Covid-19 pandemic. The nation’s economic growth is slowing due to inflation. The U.K. had already committed to increasing military spending by 2.5% per year by 2030, compared to the 2.2% currently. However, Sunday’s statement stated that this was a long-term goal.

Two years ago, the Conservative government published a reassessment on Britain’s foreign policy priorities. This review was called the Integrated Review. The review concluded that the U.K.’s contribution to the creation of the international order after World War II was falling apart and that globalization was on the decline.

The government wants to create a more agile fighting force to counter malign state influence and make the U.K. a powerful power broker in the world. After the Russian invasion, and amid growing concerns from British spy chiefs over Chinese economic coercion, the government ordered a strategy review. His predecessor Liz Truss was to have China designated as a threat to U.K. security on par with Russia. However, she was forced to resign before the change could be implemented.

Sunak said that China was not a national security threat and that the country required a foreign policy approach that was complex enough to avoid being reduced to just two words. Sunak also stated that the U.K. must cooperate with China on global matters such as climate change, global financial stability, and other issues. This is a similar approach to the U.S.

The U.K. has tried to maintain a neutral position towards China. It stated that it would continue trade relations with China while investing in defense against China’s assertiveness. In 2021, the security review concluded that China was “the greatest state-based threat to Britain’s economic security.”

The U.K. intends to increase its Mandarin-language training as well as diplomatic Chinese expertise. It will also strengthen international sanctions enforcement.

The U.K.’s national-security review will also be used to update its military strategy. In 2021, the U.K. moved away from heavy materiel and tanks in favor of a more lean high-tech fighting force. Military experts are questioning this decision to abandon mass. They say that the war in Ukraine shows the importance of maintaining weapon supply chains and scale in war.

The U.K. announced in 2020 its largest increase in military spending since Cold War. This was to maintain its status as America’s primary military ally in Europe following Brexit and Britain’s separation from the European Union. The war in Ukraine is putting pressure on the government to increase spending and ensure that its military functions properly. This comes after years of underinvestment. In fact, the army has shrunk to its lowest size since the Napoleonic Era.

The U.K. defense secretary, Mr. Wallace is currently reviewing a decision to decrease the number of main battle tank units from 227 to just 148. Officials expect that the government will change its strategy to reduce army personnel. According to the U.K., it will continue to hold discussions with NATO allies about burden-sharing and will review military spending after 2025.

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