In remarks to a virtual meeting of the Aspen Defense Forum, Hicks noted that China can challenge the United States in several categories.
She noted that Chinese military capability is advancing in fields including long-range missiles and air defense systems, as well as in cybersecurity and in space.
“Beijing has the economic, military and technological capability to challenge the international system and America’s interests within it,” she said, noting China’s claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea.
“Let there be no doubt, China presents a real and enduring challenge,” she added, saying that the support of the U.S. Congress is necessary to ensure that the Defense Department can deter Chinese aggression.
Hicks, on the other hand, believes that open diplomatic channels with China are critical, and that the US military is ready to “serve as a supporting player to diplomatic, economic and other goals.”
For months, tensions have been building between China and the United States and its allies.
This has been evident in Chinese military air force exercises near Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province, as well as frequent transits of US warships across the Taiwan Strait, which divides the island of Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China is willing to put a halt to any push towards Taiwanese independence, a day after US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Taiwan’s views on independence are “hardening” despite the tensions.
Last week, the commander of US Strategic Command, Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China is on track to double its nuclear weapons arsenal by the end of the decade.
Richard continued that China would hide the position of its intercontinental ballistic missiles by mounting them on vehicles.
Chinese overflights to the edge of Taiwanese air sovereignty have been frequent in the South China Sea, as have visits by US and allied warships.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, which includes the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and several escort destroyers and frigates, reached the sea earlier this month to perform regular operations.