U.S. Southern Command chief Navy Admiral Craig Faller said China and transnational criminal organizations are “the two biggest threats” that U.S. forces in the SOUTHCOM, or United States Southern Command, area face.
“China is the greatest long-term strategic threat to the security in the 21st century, the Chinese Communist Party’s insidious, and corrosive and corrupt influences at work globally and in this region,” Faller said in a news conference.
Faller listed actions the Chinese regime has taken in the SOUTHCOM area of command in recent months.
“Some examples include their pursuit of multiple port deals, loans for political leverage, vaccine diplomacy that undermines sovereignty, state surveillance I.T., and the exploitation of resources such as illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing,” he said, adding that the regime has outpaced the United States in vaccine diplomacy and is working to create economic networks and develop infrastructure.
The regime is “engaged in this hemisphere to further their interests in economic dominance,” the official said, referring to the Western Hemisphere that includes North and South America.
“We see and are looking with our fellow combatant commanders at areas where China and Russia may be collaborating,” Faller noted. “That is a particular focus of ours and is a concern where and when we see it.”
Russia and China, he said, are apparently converging their interests in Venezuela, as the two countries attempt to court the support of socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro. China and Russia don’t have a formal alliance but have increasingly developed a strategic partnership based on economic and military cooperation.
“Venezuela is the most notable example, where, at the diplomatic level, they were certainly and continue to be engaged to block any effort at U.N. solutions or global solutions,” Faller said.
This week, Faller told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that more funding is needed for SOUTHCOM to develop greater intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
“The conditions that the pandemic has caused in Latin America and the Caribbean rival those of the Great Depression here in the United States,” Faller told senators. “China has moved in particularly heavy handed … and they’re using vaccines to leverage deals for their 5G, and they’re using it to drive a wedge between some nations in the region.”
U.S. influence in the region, he added, is “eroding” due to China’s influence.
“What I hear from our partner is: ‘We know that the United States military is the best, [and] we want to partner with you. But, we’re drowning, and we need a LifeRing, and we’re going to take the LifeRing from whoever throws it,’” including the Chinese, Faller remarked.