Senior US General Says China Has Become More Aggressive Against US Over the Past 5 Years

“China is increasing its aggressiveness in its rhetoric as well as its activities,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley told a group of reporters traveling with him in Asia Friday, according to a Defense Department transcript of his speech.

“The volume, the number of Chinese maritime and airborne interceptions has increased significantly in five years,” Milley said, although he did not provide any details about the figure.

Milley’s strong comments underline the Biden administration’s efforts to make countering China a key strategic priority, and they came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared to prepares to lead a congressional delegation to Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

President Joe Biden suggested that the US military believes that a potential trip by Pelosi and other lawmakers could pose a security risk. The Pentagon declined to say whether officials informed the California Democrat directly, but officials say the concern is China’s imposition of a no-fly zone or increased unsafe interceptions of US and allied ships and aircraft in the Pacific.

CNN reported last week that Millie ordered comprehensive review of US military engagement with Chinese forces Concerns have been growing over the past five years about Beijing’s assertive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, three Defense Department officials said.

Starting the review, Milley aims to get a detailed view of all interactions between the two military forces, especially those that may be considered “unsafe” or “unprofessional” due to Chinese aircraft or ships operating too close to US military installations.

Officials tell CNN the goal is to scrutinize any changes in Chinese military activity patterns. The interaction between the two militaries is so delicate that incidents are often not made public. For example, in June, a US C-130 transport aircraft operated by US Special Forces collided with Chinese aircraft, but the Pentagon has yet to publicly acknowledge the incident.

In one of the most serious recent incidents, the Australian government said in February that a Chinese warship allegedly used a laser to “illuminate” an Australian Air Force aircraft, in what Canberra described as a “major security incident”.

“Such actions may endanger lives,” the Australian Defense Force said in a statement, in which it strongly condemned “unprofessional and unsafe military behaviour.” Pilots exposed to laser attacks in the past have reported disorienting flashes, pain, spasms and spots in their eyes, and even temporary blindness.

Last month the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin similarly urged Beijing, with the Secretary of State criticizing a range of coercive, aggressive and dangerous actions that threaten stability in Asia and vowing that the US will stand with partners to resist any pressure.

“Countries in the Indo-Pacific region should not face political intimidation, economic coercion or harassment from maritime militias,” Austin said in a keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense conference.

China is adamant, its military is on the defensive.

“The development of China’s national defense aims to meet its legitimate security needs and promote the growth of the world’s peaceful force,” the 2019 National Defense White Paper says. “China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence.”

The US, for its part, appears to be stepping up its operations in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, the US Navy warship disputed Chinese claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement, the second of its kind this week.

Brad Landon of CNN contributed to the story.