China and Russia are "deliberately" building up and modernising their armed forces to challenge the US and enable their geopolitical aspirations, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday.
He also said China is engaging in a deliberate strategy to undermine the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
"Strategic competitors such as China and Russia are deliberately building up and modernising their military forces to challenge the United States and enable their geopolitical aspirations," Esper told a press conference here.
At the same time, he said, regional adversaries like Iran and North Korea continue to promote instability and therefore, the department's central challenge is to balance current requirements with the needs of the future.
"Both require our time and resources and so to get this balance right we need to make tough decisions. To enable this decision-making we have modified our battle rhythm," he said.
Asserting that Indo-Pacific region is a priority for the Trump administration, Esper said last month he travelled to the region to demonstrate his commitment to US' allies and partners in the region and to hear firsthand from his counterparts and heads of state.
"It is clear that China is engaging in a deliberate strategy to undermine the stability of the region...Throughout my conversations with foreign leaders, time and again they emphasise the need for the US to continue to show leadership throughout the Indo-Pacific in order to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy," Esper said.
"We will continue to expand our defence activities throughout the region in close cooperation with our allies and partners while pressing for equitable burden sharing from them as well," he said.