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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The risk of international conflict will increase in the next two decades as China, India and Russia become major powers and competition for resources grows, the top U.S. intelligence official said on Thursday.
The next 20 years of transition to a new international system will be fraught with risks and challenges with the rise of emerging powers and a historic transfer of wealth and economic power from West to East, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told an intelligence conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
"Strategic rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, demographics, access to natural resources, investments and technological innovation," McConnell said in a transcript of a speech provided by his office.
If current trends persist, by 2025, China will be en route to becoming the world's largest economy, a major military power and likely the world's largest importer of natural resources, McConnell said.
India and Russia would be close behind with more wealth and power, he said.
Economic and population growth will put increasing pressure on a number of strategic resources, such as energy, food and water.
"Just think about it: 1.4 billion people without these basic necessities will create significant tensions on the globe, tensions that world bodies and larger states will have to contend (with)," McConnell said.
"Given the confluence of factors from a new global international system, increasing tension over natural resources, weapons proliferation, things of this nature, we predict an increased likelihood for conflict," he added.
The official, who briefs the U.S. president daily on intelligence matters, said his agency had met with the two major presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, focusing mostly on terrorism.
McConnell said that immediately after Tuesday's election, the president-elect would start getting full daily intelligence briefings.
Writing by Joanne Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney