U.S. President Donald Trump's pick to be the next defense chief has said that new military bases are needed "throughout the Indo-Pacific region" while also urging the fielding of "new capabilities" amid the threat to U.S. and allied forces from powerful Chinese missiles.

"China has made significant technological advancements in weapons systems designed to defeat, or drastically reduce the effectiveness of U.S. forces, including in the range and accuracy of its missile forces," Mark Esper, who had been serving as army secretary and then as acting defense secretary, said in written answers to questions from lawmakers ahead of a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday morning.

Esper said that Beijing "has invested in a substantial buildup of land attack cruise missiles and short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, seeking to hold targets at risk as far as the second island chain," he added, referring to a security concept that suggests blocking China off from the Western Pacific via an "island chain" that stretches from Japan through the Marianas and Micronesia.