U.S. Looking To ‘Overmatch’ China in South China Sea
Aug. 10, 2020 (EIRNS)—The U.S. military is looking to “overmatch” China and Russia with new long-range weapons, and is especially so in the Western Pacific. South China Morning Post reports in Aug. 9 coverage that, in remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, U.S. Army Chief of Staff James McConville said he was making “long-range precision fire” his top priority and was looking at options for basing such weapons systems in the Indo-Pacific as part of America’s deterrence strategy. The changes “will allow us to overmatch” potential adversaries like China and Russia, he said, and declaring the move would also include “establishing joint all-domain task forces.”
Song Zhongping, a military expert based in Hong Kong, told SCMP that the overhaul was part of President Donald Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China. “The U.S. wants to strengthen its strike capabilities by integrating its firepower systems on land, air, sea and space, and combine them with its troops in a powerful joint operation combat system,” he said. “The goal is to block all channels in the East and South China Seas and work with its regional allies to stop PLA [People’s Liberation Army] fleets from breaking the ‘first island chain’ established by Washington [during the Cold War].”
Global Times, meanwhile, reports that PLA ground and naval forces have been on concentrated schedules in amphibious landing and maritime exercises in the past weeks and will remain so in the weeks to come, at a time when the U.S. has been frequently conducting provocative military activities near the island of Taiwan and in the South China Sea. It cites CCTV reporting that recent landing drills on the island of Hainan showed that “the PLA has confidence and determination to safeguard national sovereignty and security interests.”
The inherent risks in these dueling exercises is well known, however, as any unexpected incident could escalate out of control. Hu Bo, the director of the South China Sea Situation Probing Initiative told Global Times recently that
“given the current overall relations between China and the U.S., if any maritime or aerial accident takes place, the friction could not likely be effectively managed and could result in an escalation. Therefore, the uncertain factors over the Chinese and U.S. militaries’ interactions in the South China Sea are large, and the risks are becoming higher.”
Besides the South China Sea, another potential flashpoint between the U.S. and China is Taiwan. On Aug. 9, just prior to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar’s meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Chinese PLA J-10 and J-11 fighter jets flew along the Taiwan Strait, briefly crossing the dividing line between Taiwan and the mainland, within range of Taiwanese anti-aircraft radars and missile systems.
Azar’s visit was preceded by a Reuters report, so far unconfirmed, that the U.S. is negotiating the sale of four Sea Guardian surveillance drones (a maritime version of the MQ-9 Predator drone) to Taiwan. The Sea Guardian’s range of 6,000 miles would give Taiwan the capability to spy much deeper into China than it has until now. Also unknown is whether the U.S. offer includes weapons for the drones.