US military chief: ‘Taking down small islands is our core competency’

Lieutenant General Kenneth F McKenzie speaking at the Pentagon. File photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A top US military official has said that “taking down small islands” is a “core competency” of American armed forces.

Speaking during a Pentagon press briefing yesterday (Thursday, May 31), Director of the Joint Staff Lieutenant General Kenneth F McKenzie stressed that the US military was taking threats from both North Korea and China seriously.

He said: “We know China has a much larger nuclear capability, and you’ve got to take that into account. China has a much larger economic engine that you have to take into account. So the threats are very different.

“When you consider North Korea, the first thing you look at is their capricious and unpredictable behaviour spanning back several decades.”

When asked about the US military’s capability to tackle any of China’s man-made islands, McKenzie replied: “I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.

“We have a lot of experience, in the Second World War, taking down small islands that are isolated. So that’s a – that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before.

“You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.”

He also said that the US woulds continue to conduct freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

Military alliances

Also speaking yesterday, US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Philip S Davidson said: “To our allies here in the Indo-Pacific, you will have no better ally. To our partners, I look forward to advancing our partnership in a way that serves our mutual interests.

“To our friends, our friendship is rock solid. We must continue to work together. Peace and prosperity in the Indo Pacific relies directly on these bonds.”

He added that for more than seven decades, the Indo-Pacific region has remained largely peaceful.

“In most ways, this was made possible by two things: the commitment of free nations to the free and open international order, and underwritten by the credibility of the combat power within US Indo-Pacific Command,” he said.

He said China and Russia must remain the priority but other actors which include North Korea, violent extremism, and Iran must be considered.

China continues to improve both the size and the capability of its armed forces in hopes to supplant the US as the security partner of choice, not just in the Indo-Pacific region, but across the globe and on its own terms,” he said.