Amid reports that China is willing to start a nuclear war with the United States over the South China Sea, China’s navy has carried out a number of large military drills in the disputed South China Sea.
The Chinese Defense Ministry called the military drills ‘routine drills’, and shared pictures via social media that showed Chinese warships taking part in military drills in the South China Sea. However, the Chinese gave no details regarding the exact whereabouts of the drills, according to The Straits Times.
“The People’s Liberation Army Navy, in recent days, organized a fleet to go to relevant seas in the South China Sea, by way of the Western Pacific, to carry out exercises,” China’s Defense Ministry said in a brief statement on Sunday.
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The statement also read that the drills present a “routine arrangement made in accordance with this year’s naval training plan.”
China has claims on pretty much all of the contested waters in the South China Sea. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei all have sovereignty claims in the disputed South China Sea. All but Brunei have military fortifications in the disputed area, which raises concerns about a high risk of military confrontation in the region.
China has been at odds with Washington over the waters through which $5 trillion in trade passes every year, mostly to and from China. The U.S. has actively been criticizing China of building artificial islands in the South China Sea, which is why Washington sent sea and air patrols nearby.
On Oct. 27, the USS Lassen traveled inside the 12-mile nautical zone around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago. This reef is one of seven reefs that Beijing has artificially built in order to claim its sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the sea around it.
U.S. is officially afraid of China: Improves its Navy
Amid reports that China is stepping up its naval presence in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy is set to buy new anti-ship missiles for the first time in decades, showing how serious of a threat China’s actions in the disputed area are. Moreover, the Navy has decided to revise its playbook for war strategy in the Pacific, as reported by The Foreign Policy.
Over the past two decades, the U.S. military had no serious rival on the high seas, and there was no greater navy in the world. But these times are gone, according to the news outlet.
“But over the past decade, China has rapidly built up a naval force to be reckoned with, spending tens of billions of dollars annually to produce dozens of new warships of every size, and a formidable arsenal of missiles aimed at undercutting America’s naval reach,” Dan De Luce, the author of the article writes.
China’s threatening actions in the South China Sea have shown the need for the U.S. Navy to revise its war-fighting strategy and to equip its surface ships with new anti-ship missiles. The Pentagon also acknowledges the fact that the U.S. no longer dominates the high seas and it can no longer avoid serious casualties in a possible conflict with China.
And while the U.S. does not have its core interests in the disputed South China Sea, the artificial islands are China’s top strategic interests, which is why this kind of asymmetry in stakes would certainly give Beijing an advantage in “the balance of resolve” over Washington, according to Zhang Baohui, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, as reported by ValueWalk in late November.
And if the South China Sea situation escalates and spirals into a nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and China, Washington will have to make a decision to either back down first or fight a nuclear-armed power and the world’s largest military force with a strength of approximately 2.285 million personnel.
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Ever since the last time the U.S. Navy sank another ship – when the frigate USS Simpson sank an Iranian gunboat back in 1988 – the American fleet has been strengthened with advanced missile defenses, drones, new fighter jets, sonars, and other hardware.
While the tensions between Washington and China in the Asia-Pacific region are getting increasingly hot with every move the Chinese or Americans make, U.S. commanders want the U.S. to have advantage over the Chinese.
According to The Foreign policy, “the urgent need to bring more firepower to U.S. surface ships – instead of relying mainly on aircraft carriers and submarines to launch attacks — is captured in an unofficial slogan among senior naval officers: ‘If it floats, it fights’.”
With the U.S. deploying new missiles that can easily sink enemy ships, the Chinese will one day “wake up” and instead of worrying only about aircraft carriers or torpedoes from subs, they will have to also worry about all surface ships and their technical capabilities, as said by Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, the Navy’s Surface Force Commander, in an interview with Aviation Week this month.
The U.S. is the world’s most sophisticated navy in terms of its technological capabilities, operating and having influence in “virtually every corner of the globe,” according to The Foreign Policy.
The American Navy has a total of 272 ships and submarines, as well as more than 150 vessels in the reserve fleet, while China’s navy has a total of 300 naval ships. However, many military analysts predict that China will become the second most powerful maritime force by 2020.
China has experienced an average increase of 9.5 percent a year in the past decade, while a third of the country’s $165 billion defense budget is devoted to the navy. On top of that, China has recently shifted its focus onto building new destroyers, cruisers and submarines, as well as its first aircraft carrier.