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China Remains 'Pacing Challenge' for U.S., Pentagon Press Secretary Says

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The secretary of defense believes that China is a pacing challenge for the Defense Department, the Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a news conference today.

Drone flies at night.
An MV-22B Osprey from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit prepares to land on the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America during night flight operations in the East China Sea, June 26, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Vincent E. Zline
VIRIN: 210626-N-RU810-1334M

Although China is developing capabilities that could potentially threaten the security and stability of neighboring nations in the region and globally, the department views that nation as a pacing challenge, not a pacing threat, he said.

The department's response has been to strengthen regional and global alliances and partnerships.

"Competition does not necessarily have to mean conflict and we're not chasing conflict. In fact, we'd like nothing more than to be able to deter any conflict or miscalculation," Kirby said.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will visit Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Kirby said.

Sailor looks out on the sea from a helicopter.
Sea View
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jared Benik looks out the side door of an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation drill in Manama, Bahrain, June 19, 2019.
Photo By: Army Spc. Vincent Fausnaught
VIRIN: 190619-A-YD127-1011

"We affirm the U.S. resolve to advance and strengthen enduring defense partnerships and our commitment to longstanding U.S. leadership in strengthening regional security and stability," he said.

Regarding the secretary of defense's authority to require COVID-19 vaccinations for the National Guard, Kirby said that Austin has the authority to do so.

Airman puts a band-aid on a patient’s arm.
COVID-19 Vaccine
Air Force Staff Sgt. Makayla Weaver, 316th Surgical Operations Squadron medical technician, places a band-aid on a patient’s arm after administering a COVID-19 vaccine dose at Joint Base Andrews, Md., March 12, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Airman Essence Myricks
VIRIN: 210312-F-TO640-1085

"He needs, obviously, to set mission requirements for defending the nation and the vaccine mandate is within those authorities. It's the right thing to do, for each individual member as well as their units and their families. It's the right thing to do. A vaccinated force is a more ready force, ready to meet the demands that the nation puts on them," he said.

Regarding the Russian troop buildup along the region of Ukraine, Kirby said he hopes that the Russians will be more transparent about their intentions.

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