A top US military commander says China is engaged in “the largest military buildup since World War II.”
US Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John C. Aquilino said in an interview with the Associated Press on Sunday that China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the South China Sea.
He further said China has armed them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets.
Aquilino said the Chinese actions were in contrast to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s past statements that Beijing would not transform the artificial islands in disputed waters into military bases.
China claims the South China Sea in its entirety. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea. The US, however, sides with Beijing’s rival claimants in the dispute.
The United States routinely sends its warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls its “right” to “freedom of navigation.”
China has always warned the US against military activities in the sea. Beijing says potential close military encounters between the air and naval forces of the two countries in the region may cause accidents.
Aquilino said on Sunday accused China of flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea.
“I think over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed the largest military buildup since World War II by the PRC (the People's Republic of China),” the US military commander said.
“They have advanced all their capabilities and that buildup of weaponization is destabilizing to the region,” he claimed.
China maintains its military profile is purely defensive, arranged to protect its sovereign rights against an increasingly aggressive United States.
Washington says it is concerned that Beijing is increasing its military spending and modernizing its force with weapons systems including the J-20 stealth fighter, hypersonic missiles and two aircraft carriers, with a third under construction.
China has made a robust increase in military budget amid rising tensions with the US and territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and Washington’s constant meddling in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
China has sovereignty over the self-ruled Chinese Taipei, and under the “One China” policy, virtually all countries recognize that sovereignty. But successive US administrations have been courting officials in Taiwan in an attempted affront to Beijing.
Earlier this month, China announced the 7.1 hike in military spending. The Chinese military received a total of $230 billion funding in 2022 which is still far less than the whopping US military budget for 2022, which is to the tune of $768 billion.
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