The US military is losing its edge in the Indo-Pacific as China rapidly expands its military in a way that suggests it is preparing for aggressive action, the region’s senior US commander has warned.
Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the Indo-Pacific command, said the military balance in the region had “become more unfavorable” to the United States, increasing the risk that China would take military action due to the decline in deterrence.
“We are accumulating risks that could prompt China to unilaterally change the status quo before our forces are able to provide an effective response,” Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing Tuesday.
China announced last week that it would increase its defense budget by 6.8% this year. Davidson said China is rapidly developing its navy and should be able to deploy three aircraft carriers by 2025.
The admiral said China had quadrupled its nuclear capabilities over the past two decades and could surpass the United States by the end of the decade if its current level quadrupled, as some experts have projected. .
“I can’t for the life of me figure out some of the abilities they put on the pitch unless it’s an aggressive posture,” Davidson said.
His comments came as the US alarmed by aggressive Chinese military activity around Taiwan. When asked whether the United States should change its long-term policy of “strategic ambiguity” – where it refuses to say how it would react to an attack on Taiwan – he suggested it should be considered.
“40 years of strategic ambiguity. . . helped keep Taiwan and its current status, but you know these things should be reconsidered on a regular basis, ”Davidson said.
President Joe Biden has taken a harsh rhetorical stance towards China over its military activity around Taiwan and other parts of the South China Sea and East China Sea. Biden will host a summit on Friday with the Quad members – Japan, India and Australia – to discuss how they can work together to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.
The US Navy has also conducted operations in the South China Sea to send a clear message to Beijing.
Last month, two U.S. aircraft carriers conducted joint training exercises in the South China Sea – this is only the second time that dual carrier exercises have been carried out in the region since 2012. American warships also crossed the Taiwan Strait, after Chinese fighter planes the bombers had simulations of missile attacks on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of two carriers that have operated in the area.
Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, chief of intelligence at the Indo-Pacific Command, said last week that China continues to militarize the disputed South China Sea islands, including the Spratly Channel.
In addition to installing surface-to-air cruise and coastal defense missiles, he said he expected them to deploy fighter jets – another step that would undermine President Xi’s commitment. Jinping in 2015 not to militarize the islands.
“At some point you’re going to see fighters,” Studeman said. “There will be a few at first, then they’ll try to do the kind of boiling frog approach where I just do a little bit, no one will notice or push back a lot.” And then, very soon, they will have as many as they want to deploy there. “
The United States has also criticized activities in the East China Sea where Chinese ships make almost daily forays into the waters around the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China.
Studeman said China employs a “creeping presence designed to demonstrate that it can gain judicial review steadily, slowly over time.”
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