Defense Secretary Mark Esper called on U.S. allies in Europe to be wary of Chinese investments while blasting Russia for violating arms control rules and for its aggression in Europe.
The Associated Press reported that Esper made the remarks at a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, in his first major foreign address as President Trump’s new Defense secretary.
His remarks came as the Trump administration is embroiled in a trade dispute with China as well as a legal battle over Huawei, a major technology company in the Asian country.
“I would caution my friends in Europe — this is not a problem in some distant land that does not affect you,” Esper said, according to the AP.
“The more dependent a country becomes on Chinese investment and trade, the more susceptible they are to coercion and retribution when they act outside of Beijing’s wishes,” he added.
Both Russia and China, Esper also argued, were using economic influence to gain leverage over foreign governments to pressure against foreign policy decisions that could harm their interests.
“It is increasingly clear that Russia and China want to disrupt the international order by gaining a veto over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions,” he said, according to the AP.
“For anyone who wonders what a world dominated by Beijing might look like,” he reportedly added, “I would argue all you need to do is look at how they treat their own people, within their borders.”
Esper also hit out at Russia, including over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and said Russian cruise missiles that are pointed at Europe are “probably nuclear-tipped.”
Esper was sworn in as Defense secretary in late July following acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s decision to bow out from consideration to lead the agency in full capacity.
Both succeeded James Mattis, who resigned from his post in December.