US Admiral: China Now Controls South China Sea

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Admiral Philip Davidson, the nominee to head the United States Pacific Command, has said that China’s military now has control over the South China Sea. Mr. Davidson is also urging the swift bolstering of US defenses in the area through more medium range and hypersonic missiles to stand up to China’s threats.

Mr. Davidson was referring particularly to China’s electronic attack systems capabilities as well as other facilities on the islands in the South China Seas that are under territorial dispute. China’s buildup of military power is tantamount to gaining total control over this strategic area.

He also sent a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee conveying urgency for the US to strengthen its military’s powers should the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) choose to engage in conflict. 

Mr. Davidson wrote, “In the future, hypersonic and directed energy weapons, resilient space, cyber and network-capabilities, and well-trained soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen will be crucial to our ability to fight and win.”

China’s efforts to militarize islands in the South China Sea started less than five years ago, in December 2013, at Johnson Reef in the Spratly islands. These islands are claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, aside from China. 

But China has since then been building military facilities here and in six other locations on the Spratly Islands—Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef. According to the Admiral, the facilities “significantly expand the real-time domain awareness, [intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance], and jamming capabilities of the PLA over a large portion of the South China Sea, presenting a substantial challenge to U.S. military operations in this region.”

However, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in 2015 that his country had no intention to militarize the South China Sea. This strategic waterway is used in shipping goods worth $5.3 trillion every year. The facilities have been completed, Mr. Davidson said, with forces as the only thing missing. These facilities mean that China’s power and influence have spread considerably toward the south and into the south seas.

Mr. Davidson expressed his concern that China is now so powerful in the South China Seas that it can easily defeat any military force that would stand up against it, including the US, and indeed has complete control in the area.

Meanwhile, in the East China Sea, China is also staking claim over Japan’s Senkaku Islands, and has been sending military ships and aircraft there, causing speculation that China would like to set off conflict with Japan. 

Admiral Davidson said that China’s amassing of military forces is “the most ambitious military modernization in the world,” and he has also warned that “the threat to U.S. forces and bases is substantial and growing.”

The improvements to China’s military capabilities include technological advances in their submarines, stealth fighters, long-range bombers, unmanned aircraft, as well as cyber warfare. Additionally, China has also weaponized space, with weapons that can take down American satellites. 

Mr. Davidson has said that if he is indeed nominated to lead Pacific Command, he will be add to the US’ military strength in the South China Sea, not only to defend against China’s advances, but also North Korea’s.

Mr. Davidson’s predecessor, Admiral Harry Harris, has asked for the Pentagon to prioritize building a hypersonic weapon for the military. Lockheed Martin is now under contract to develop such a weapon, having been awarded $928 million to do so.  Both China and Russia are also developing hypersonic weapons.

“China has undergone a rapid military modernization over the last three decades and is approaching parity in a number of critical areas; there is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China,” Mr. Davidson said.

Additionally, according to him, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is part of its anti-democratic global expansion. “It is increasingly clear that China wants to shape a world aligned with its own authoritarian model. The predatory nature of many of the loans and initiatives associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lead me to believe that Beijing is using BRI as a mechanism to coerce states into greater access and influence for China.”