China is overtaking the U.S. Navy with more ships, upgraded aircraft, improved weapons and a shadow fleet of fishing boats that are anything but fishing boats, a former Navy secretary wrote in an opinion column for the conservative news site The Daily Signal.
J. William Middendorf, 96, who served as Navy secretary under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, warned in the Daily Signal that China has “engaged in a significant effort to upgrade its mine-warfare prowess,” which combined with its other capabilities “constitute a deadly serious challenge to U.S. naval power in East Asia.”
Middendorf, who also served in various diplomatic positions such as ambassador to the European Union, the Organization of American States and the Netherlands under Nixon and Ronald Reagan, noted several advancements by China that were reported last month in the Defense Department’s annual military power assessment of the communist nation.
He pointed out that by producing 100 warships in the past decade, the Chinese have become the largest navy in the world with 350 vessels including submarines, outpacing the United States’ approximately 293.
China’s navy consists of 130 major surface combatant vessels, the Pentagon says.
Middendorf marveled about how China was able to launch its first aircraft carrier less than two years after the hull was laid, that it is in the process of building three nuclear-power super carriers, and has built six new classes of destroyers with more advanced hull design, propulsion system sensors, weapons and electronics.
Moreover, “The Chinese navy is augmented by a shadow fleet of more than 2,000 fishing boats fishing illegally in other countries’ coastal domains,” he wrote. “Some of those boats are not fishing at all. Disguised as fishing boats and called ‘sea phantoms,’ they are fire-support vessels equipped with 16-tube rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns.”
Additionally he pointed out to China’s new Type 094 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are already operational and expected to be equipped with new longer-range ballistic missiles. Furthermore he referenced two “fifth-generation” stealth fighter planes the Chinese have.
His most imperative warning appeared to regard Taiwan.
“Relying heavily on sea mines, the Chinese navy is already fully capable of blockading Taiwan and other crucial sea lines of communication in the western Pacific area,” he wrote.
“Taiwan’s relative trade dependence, the inherent difficulty in clearing mines, and the extreme weakness of American mine-clearing capacity, particularly in the Pacific theater, all make blockading Taiwan a tempting strategy for China.”
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