The South China Sea is already a highly disputed region where it faces claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. In recent months, Beijing has claimed dominance over the region, sparking fears of war.
The communist nation has claimed the majority of the great region as its sovereign territory.
Although they have no claim to any part of the archipelago, the United States has increased its military presence in the region and called on other nations to counter China’s dominance.
And now the US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, has announced plans to expand the Navy with a number of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft.
The United States risks Beijing outrage with “game changer” plans
The United States has increased its military presence in the region
The plan would expand the US Navy to more than 355 vessels from the current 293.
On Wednesday, Esper said: “The future fleet will be more balanced in its ability to deliver deadly effects from the air, from the sea and under the sea.”
The expansion will include ships that were optionally manned, unmanned and autonomous, and a wide range of unmanned carrier-based aircraft, the Guardian reported.
Mr Esper added: “These efforts are the next step in realizing our future fleet, one where unmanned systems perform a variety of warfare functions, from delivering deadly fire and laying mines to carrying out re-supply or surveillance of the enemy.
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“This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the coming years and decades.”
The Pentagon chief went on to explain why the South China Sea is the “priority theater” for the US military.
He said: “Not only is this region important because it is a hub for global trade and commerce, it is also the epicenter of major power competition with China.
“Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take China (People’s Republic of China) years to match our capability on the high seas.”
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According to reports, China has deployed fighter jets and at least one bomber, the H-6J, to the Paracel Islands.
Since the seizure of China in 1974, China has built military installations on the islands.
Last week, the US Marines conducted a military exercise in a suspected flex in Beijing.
Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Marine Raid Force were accused of lowering the ship into the drills.
Nations were urged to oppose China’s dominance
The exercise consisted of two platoons of reconnaissance Marine and a security element.
These types of operations – known as visits, board, search and seizure assignments (VBSS) – are common methods for naval corps and navy.
Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on other nations in the region to oppose China’s dominance.
China has built bunkers on some of the atolls
He wrote on Twitter: “US policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.
“If Beijing violates international law and free nations do nothing, history shows that the CCP will simply take more territory.
“Disputes in the China Sea must be resolved through international law.”