Russia's invasion of Ukraine highlights the "acute threats" posed by Moscow, but China is the most consequential challenge for the United States, the US military said in a statement of its overall strategy released on Thursday.
The Pentagon also made clear -- amid Russian talk of use of a nuclear weapon in the Ukraine war -- that the United States intends for its nuclear arsenal to deter "all forms of strategic attack," including those involving conventional weapons.
China "presents the most consequential and systemic challenge, while Russia poses acute threats -- both to vital US national interests abroad and to the homeland," the unclassified version of the National Defense Strategy said.
"The most comprehensive and serious challenge to US national security is (China's) coercive and increasingly aggressive endeavor to refashion the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to suit its interests and authoritarian preferences," it said.
The strategy highlights Chinese rhetoric over self-ruled Taiwan -- which Beijing has vowed to take control of, by force if necessary -- as a destabilizing factor that risks miscalculation and threatens peace in the area.
As for Russia, it says the threat posed by Moscow has been "demonstrated most recently by Russia's unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine.
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"The Department (of Defense) will support robust deterrence of Russian aggression against vital US national interests, including our treaty Allies," the strategy said.
It emphasized the need for collaboration with allied countries and other partners to counter the dangers posed by China and Russia, saying such cooperation is "foundational for US national security interests."
In an updated report on US nuclear posture released in parallel with the National Defense Strategy, the Pentagon defined the role of its nuclear arsenal as to deter both foreign nuclear and non-nuclear attacks that have strategic consequences.
"This includes nuclear employment of any scale, and it includes high-consequence attacks of a strategic nature that use non-nuclear means," a senior defense official told journalists.
The unclassified version of the Nuclear Posture Review contains a stark warning for North Korea's Kim Jong Un against employing the country's growing atomic arsenal.
"Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its Allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime. There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive," the strategy says.
Kim has declared the country an "irreversible" nuclear power, effectively ending negotiations over his banned arms programs.
The reports were released as the United States and NATO allies are pumping arms into Ukraine to help it expel Russian forces after they invaded in February.
It also comes amid heightened tensions over China's stated intention to absorb Taiwan possibly by military force, as the United States continues to supply arms and give political support to the self-governed island.