World View: China Says Pentagon Report on China Military ‘Severely Damages’ Relations


This morning’s key headlines from

  • China says Pentagon report on China military ‘severely damages’ relations
  • Pentagon documents massive China buildup, but omits ‘Maritime Militia’

China says Pentagon report on China military ‘severely damages’ relations

Chinese vessel in South China Sea (Reuters)
Chinese vessel in South China Sea (Reuters)

China on Friday accused the Pentagon of “sensationalizing” China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, claiming that China has “the legitimate right to deploy military facilities on its own islands in the South China Sea.” The problem with this claim is that China is using its vast military power to annex regions of the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

China always says that its claims “are indisputable,” and this much at least is a total lie since the claims are very much in dispute, and are currently being adjudicated by a United Nations international court in the Hague, which is expected to rule on counterclaims by the Philippines very soon, possibly by the end of May.

Friday’s Pentagon report documents a massive buildup in the size, sophistication and power of China’s military, including the the South China Sea. The Chinese response is essentially to call the Americans war-mongers, for documenting China’s military buildup, and for freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

Statements by Chinese officials include the following:

“There’s no difference between China’s deployment of defense facilities on its own territory and the defense installation by the US in Hawaii. …

We don’t hope to see militarized close-in reconnaissance by the US military. Nor do we want to see more missile destroyers or strategic fighters coming to this region. This is what all sides need to take for a responsible behavior on demilitarization. …

The US has increasingly dispatched military vessels and aircraft to the adjacent waters and airspace of China’s islands in the South China Sea. It has engaged in highly targeted military exercises and joint patrols. The US is turning a blind eye to its own militarization and has made irresponsible accusations about China. This is a typical double standard. …

Recent actions by the US have severely damaged mutual trust between the two sides, and violates the consensus reached by two sides. We urge the US to take concrete measures to remove obstacles for healthy development.”

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that “The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

These freedom of navigation patrols are infuriating the Chinese. In China’s Alice in Wonderland world, freedom of navigation patrols are the biggest military actions, not building several massive military bases in the South China Sea on top of artificial islands. Dept. of Defense – China military report and China TV and Defense News

Pentagon documents massive China buildup, but omits ‘Maritime Militia’

Friday’s Pentagon report documents a massive buildup in the size, sophistication and power of China’s military, in a way that indicates that the situation has changed in a significant way. In the past, Americans have soothed themselves by saying that despite China’s buildup, and their obvious preparations for a first strike military attack on the United States, America’s military is still capable of fending off a pre-emptive Chinese attack.

However, the tone of the report suggests that China’s military buildup is just about at a tipping point, where it could overwhelm American defense forces. This had to happen sometime, as America’s military has been cutting back and China’s has been building up. At some point, China’s military had to surpass America’s and the tone of the report suggests that that time is now or very soon.

Here are some highlights:

  • In the South China Sea, China added more than 3,200 acres in artificial islands, used for military bases. China’s Cost Guard has acquired more than 100 new, improved long-range ocean-going patrol ships, many capable of embarking helicopters.
  • China’s navy has been on a building binge, with quality improving even faster than quantity. China’s navy “now possesses the largest number of vessels in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious ships, and patrol craft, [many of them] larger, multi-mission ships equipped with advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors. Submarine force modernization remains a leading priority.”
  • China’s air force “is the largest air force in Asia and the third largest in the world, with more than 2,800 total aircraft (not including UAVs) and 2,100 combat aircraft (including fighters, bombers, fighter-attack and attack aircraft),” rapidly closing the gap vis-à-vis Western counterparts “across a broad spectrum of capabilities from aircraft and command-and-control (C2) to jammers, electronic warfare (EW), and datalinks.”
  • China’s PLA Rocket Force has an extensive inventory of sub-strategic nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles—notably including 75-100 ICBMs, and is “developing and testing several new classes and variants of offensive missiles, including a hypersonic glide vehicle.”
  • In space, China launched 19 rockets bearing 45 spacecraft in 2015 alone. Chinese counter-space capabilities under development include directed energy weapons, satellite jammers, and kinetic kill vehicles.

However, the Pentagon reports omits discussion of a major portion of China’s naval military capabilities: The “Maritime Militia.” This is a secret force of fishing vessels that patrol the South China Sea and act as a guerrilla force under civilian cover, occupying and helping to build disputed islands. National Interest and Reuters and Australian Broadcasting and International Business Times (Singapore)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, Pentagon, South China Sea, Vietnam, Philippines, Maritime Militia
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