By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, May 3 (Yonhap) -- The United States plans to boost its deterrence against China and North Korea, partly by increasing its "prepositioned stocks" of military supplies in the Indo-Pacific, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Monday.
The U.S. defense chief also said the defense department plans to spend some US$6 billion in fiscal year 2023 to boost its deterrence posture in the Indo-Pacific.
"So this budget invests some six billion dollars in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, and in keeping with our new national defense strategy, we are going to enhance our force posture, our infrastructure, our presence and our readiness in the Indo-Pacific, including the missile defense of Guam," he said in a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
"At the same time we must be prepared for threats that pay no heed to borders, from pandemics to climate change. And we must tackle the persistent threats posed by North Korea, Iran and global terrorist groups," he added.
The remarks come after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hinted at the possible use of his country's nuclear weapons to "preemptively and thoroughly contain and frustrate all dangerous attempts and threatening moves" in a massive military parade held in Pyongyang on April 25 (Seoul time), in which the North also showcased its largest known intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The recalcitrant country has fired more than a dozen missiles this year, including its first ICBM in more than four years.
Austin reiterated that the investment the U.S. plans to make in the Indo-Pacific will provide greater capability to counter possible aggression from China.
"In terms of what we are investing in with the Pacific Deterrent Initiative, we are investing in infrastructure and a number of other things to ensure that we have capability further forward in the theater," the secretary said when asked if the defense department had plans to increase its prepositioned stocks in the Indo-Pacific.
Prepositioned stocks refer to supplies, including weapons, that are positioned at strategic locations in advance. The U.S. currently maintains some 28,500 troops in South Korea.
"So, that's our goal; to make sure that we have that ability in the Indo-Pacific to a greater degree in the future," added Austin.
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