The US military is using a strategy of “cyber warfare” against China to justify its actions in the Asia-Pacific, and has also made clear it does not want to see China lose its grip on its economic and military dominance in the region.
On Monday, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed off on a draft report that describes the cyber war as a “vital tool” for the US to combat China’s “cyberspace dominance”.
The draft report, published by the Pentagon on Monday, does not specify how or by whom the cyber warfare could be carried out.
But the draft report is likely to play a significant role in shaping US policy towards China, given that the US is already using cyber warfare as part of its military response to China’s actions in Central Asia.
In response to questions from Reuters on Tuesday, Mattis said that the report had been drafted after consultation with the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and that it was “designed to address the most pressing threats to the United States, including cyber attacks, cyber threats and cyber-enabled capabilities”.
Mattis told reporters in Washington that cyber warfare had been a critical component of the military’s response to North Korea, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
He said that cyber-capable capabilities were a “very important tool” that the United State had to counter the Chinese “aggressive intentions” and that cyber attacks were “the backbone” of the US response.
Mattis has faced increasing criticism from Republican members of Congress over his role in developing the report.
They say it is overly broad and could have broader impacts on US military and civilian policies in the area.
China has called on the US not to approve the draft, saying it was too broad and that the military could potentially be misused by a foreign power.