Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Russia sends a "troubling message, a message of support," says U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
He also warned that the U.S. must be ready for possible confrontation with Beijing as he pushed Congress to approve the Defense Department's proposed $842 billion budget.
"This is a strategy-driven budget — and one driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People's Republic of China," Austin said in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Xi visited Moscow earlier this week after an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
The men signed a joint statement saying it was necessary to "respect legitimate security concerns of all countries."
A statement released by China's government after the meeting said Xi and Putin "shared the view" that their two countries' "relationship has gone far beyond the bilateral scope and acquired critical importance for the global landscape and the future of humanity."
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said China's actions "are moving it down the path toward confrontation and potential conflict with its neighbors and possibly the United States."
He said deterring and preparing for war "is extraordinarily expensive, but it's not as expensive as fighting a war. And this budget prevents war and prepares us to fight it if necessary."
Austin said the growing alliance between China and Russia is "troubling."
He added that the U.S. had not yet seen China provide arms to Russia, but if it does, "it would prolong the conflict and certainly broaden the conflict potentially not only in the region, but globally."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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