MUNICH – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday cast China as a rising threat to world order – saying the world’s most populous nation steals Western know-how, intimidates smaller neighbors and seeks an “advantage by any means and at any cost.” A frequent critic of China, Esper used an address to an international security conference in Munich, Germany, to give his most comprehensive condemnation yet of a communist country that he said tops the Pentagon’s list of potential adversaries, followed by Russia, “rogue states” like North Korea and Iran, and continuing threats from extremist groups. “The Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction – more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture,” he said. Esper stressed that the U.S.

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