The British defence secretary has stressed the importance of stepping up the UK’s protective capabilities amidst constantly evolving rivalries, adding that China is intent on building the world’s largest naval fleet.

Addressing the Atlantic Future Forum onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace spoke of the constant competition the UK was facing in the “grey zone between war and peace,” while specifically singling out China as an ever-evolving rival.

China is growing the largest maritime surface and subsurface fleet in the world.

Referencing London’s decision to delay its spending review amid uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wallace said that the UK still needs to step up on the military front, as “the world does not stop for our reviews.”

The country’s adversaries “will not halt [in] the absence of our strategies, and the UK’s defense can never be paused in the face of financial uncertainty,” he added.

The government’s delayed review, which reportedly contained commitments from London to back long-term military investment, is now not expected until late November as the government focuses on the coronavirus pandemic.

Wallace has also used the annual Forum event, in which the UK and US address issues of trade, security and defense, to state that “at this time of global uncertainty and evolving adversaries,” it is vital for the UK to continue to work together with the United States “to strengthen our special alliance.”

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