China is the Pentagon’s “number one priority,” and the United States is watching Beijing “very carefully” in order to safeguard America, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Fox News in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
In his first interview since he was confirmed as Pentagon chief in July, Esper told Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin that China has engaged in the “greatest theft of intellectual property in human history” and is also expanding its military to “push the United States out of [the Indo-Pacific] theater.”
“China is the number one priority for this department. It’s outlined in the National Defense Strategy, why we think it’s a long-term strategic competitor and one that is pursuing a maximization campaign, if you will, throughout the Indo-Pacific Theater, whether it’s politically, economically, or militarily,” he told Griffin. “They are clearly professionalizing and expanding the capacity and capabilities of the military in order to push the United States out of that theater.”
“They’ve studied us, and they’ve learned about how we employ weapons; they’ve learned about our doctrine,” Esper added. “And so, that is something that we watch very carefully.”