The US Secretary of the Navy has raised the alarm that China’s naval fleet outnumbers the US in number of ships and is growing faster than the US currently has the capacity to match.
“It is no secret that the PRC seeks to change our dominance over the world’s oceans,” he said. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Wednesday.
Del Toro said the Chinese Navy has recently added more than 100 fighters to its fleet, calling it “a naval buildup that is a key component of its increasingly aggressive military posture globally.”
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy now has approximately 340 ships, compared to the US Navy’s fleet of approximately 280.
Del Toro said China plans to field a fleet of 440 ships by 2030, far exceeding the Pentagon’s stated goal of having 350 manned ships by 2045.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro (right) raised the alarm that China’s naval fleet surpasses that of the United States in number of ships and is growing faster than the United States currently has the capacity to match.
A Chinese warship is seen taking part in exercises in the Arabian Sea near Karachi, Pakistan, on February 13. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy now has approximately 340 ships.
“Due to the incursion of a Chinese balloon into our airspace, the alarm bells of most Americans have already gone off,” del Toro said.
However, he added that many Americans were unaware that China “consistently attempts to violate the maritime sovereignty and economic well-being of other nations, including our allies and trading partners in the South China Sea and elsewhere.”
In recent years, China has become increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea, a vast swath of ocean that China claims as its own, though the claim is not recognized under international law.
‘China’s disregard for the rules-based international order is particularly troubling in the maritime domain, from the Taiwan Strait to the high seas,” Del Toro said.
“The values espoused by the Chinese Communist Party are incompatible with individual freedom, with democracy and with respect for human rights,” he added.
Del Toro asserted in remarks to reporters that China’s shipbuilding capacity far exceeds that of the US, saying that China has 13 shipyards, including one that has a shipbuilding capacity greater than all US shipyards. combined, according to CNN.
The United States maintains a powerful carrier advantage, with 11 from the Navy to three from China. China has also reportedly had trouble training enough shipborne fighter jet pilots to properly man its aircraft carriers.
However, experts say that in a large-scale naval war, the largest overall fleet almost always has a decisive advantage.
A US warship participates in multinational exercises. The Navy has approximately 280 warships.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) is seen in a file photo.
The size of the US Navy fleet is not expected to reach 350 until the 2040s, according to the latest Navy projections, seen in a CBO report released Wednesday.
The CBO documents detail the Navy’s shipbuilding plans for the coming years. The fleet is likely to shrink before it grows as old ships are retired from service.
Sam Tangredi, chair of Leidos Future Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College and a former US Navy captain, issued such a warning last month in the January issue of the journal of proceedings.
In his analysis of 25 historical naval wars, the side with the largest fleet won in all but three cases.
“In a war between equally competent technological peers, absent a series of surprising strokes of luck, the larger fleet always won,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, China’s provocations continue to escalate in the South China Sea.
On February 6, a Chinese coast guard ship directed a “military-grade laser” at a Philippine coast guard ship, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.
The Philippine ship was assisting a navy mission to deliver food and supplies to troops on an atoll in the disputed South China Sea.
The incident took place at Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles from the Philippine province of Palawan. The shoal is home to a small Philippine military contingent aboard a rusty boat.
“I think it is time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative acts that endanger people’s lives,” Philippine military spokesman Medel Aguilar told reporters, according to Reuters.
Aguilar quoted the Philippine defense chief as saying the Chinese action was “offensive” and unsafe.
The Philippines accused a Chinese coast guard ship on Monday of hitting a Philippine coast guard ship with a military-grade laser on February 6. Pictured: An image released by the Philippine coast guard showing a green light coming from the Chinese ship.
Manila said the laser (pictured) temporarily blinded some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights.
The US chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, was in Manila on Wednesday, where he said the US is “committed” to conduct joint maritime patrols with the Philippines in the disputed waterway to deter Chinese aggression.
Gilday said the countries were “in the beginning of the planning stages” for combined maritime activities, but insisted the United States was “committed and focused,” AFP reported.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually, and has ignored a ruling by an international court that says its claims have no legal basis.
In Manila, Gilday held talks with the head of the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci, and the chief of the military staff, General Andrés Centino.
They agreed “in principle that we need to move forward, focused and swiftly, to enhance our interoperability together in the South China Sea and across the region,” Gilday told reporters.
Given its proximity to Taiwan and its surrounding waters, Philippine cooperation would be key in the event of a conflict with China, which a four-star US Air Force general has warned could occur as early as 2025.