Updated Dec. 13, 2020 7:00 am ET
China ranks first in the Pentagon’s view of rising threats to U.S. strategic interests, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley said this week at the CEO Council summit. The chairman sat down with Gerald F. Seib, The Wall Street Journal’s executive Washington editor, to talk about challenges currently facing the U.S. military. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.
WSJ: There are various ways you can categorize security challenges to the U.S. How do you break them down?
GEN. MILLEY: A couple of ways. We do a lot of risk-management sort of analysis. We tend to look at things from a traditional nation-state role, where adversaries are challengers to the national security of armies and navies and air forces, etc.
The National Defense Strategy was written several years ago. It’s a good document. It categorizes the challenges to the U.S. and names them as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and the terrorists, or the violent extremist organizations. There are others out there that certainly could qualify and may in the future.
China is developing a very strong and capable military. They have a plan. They want to be publicly announced to be our peer by the mid-2030s, and to have the capability to defeat the U.S. in armed conflict by midcentury. So I would argue that that is probably the single most important, but not the only, challenge. I wouldn’t put them in the category of an enemy. I wouldn’t use that term unless you’re engaged in armed conflict. But it certainly is a significant security challenge for the U.S. now and in the years to come.