Defense Secretary Robert Gates today warned that the United States must be vigilant in light of a rapidly advancing Chinese military despite efforts to improve relations between the two countries.
"Even as the United States pursues a more constructive relationship with China, we and our allies cannot ignore the Chinese military's recent advances in missiles, space and cyber warfare," said Gates during a U.S. Strategic Command change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base, in Nebraska.
This isn't the first time Gates has suggested that the U.S. needs to monitor China's military modernization very closely. The Defense Secretary and other top U.S military officials have repeatedly said they do not know the true purpose of a Chinese military buildup that appears aimed at checking U.S. power in the pacific. To some, Gates' budget plans unveiled earlier this month seemed aimed at countering many of the threats being developed by China.
Gates also hinted that the Air Force's nuclear enterprise is getting back to its "place of honor" even while warning of an increasingly challenging strategic environment in terms of space, cyberspace and nuclear security issues.
"Chili has led the way in reforming the management of reforming the nuclear enterprise, overseeing [the standup] of Air Force Global Strike Command, providing more training for our nuclear airmen and restoring the nuclear mission to its proper place of honor," said Gates.
He was praising outgoing STRACOM chief Gen. Kevin Chilton who was replaced today by former Air Force Space Command Boss Gen. Robert Kehler.
Kehler said during the ceremony that under his watch the command must maintain the ability to provide "a safe, secure effective and ready nuclear deterrent force," support to combat ops around the globe, "uninterrupted capabilities from space and improve awareness of objects and activities in space" and enhance the nation's cyber security and ensure joint support for cyber activities."