A top US military commander says China is engaged in “the largest military build-up since World War II.”
U.S. 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 that 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 earlier statements that Beijing would not turn 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 on parts of the sea. However, the United States is on the side of Beijing’s rival plaintiffs 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 United States against military activities at sea. Beijing says potential close military meetings between air and naval forces in the two countries in the region could cause accidents.
Aquilino said on Sunday that he accused China of tensing its military muscles in the South China Sea.
“I think over the last 20 years we have witnessed the largest military build-up since World War II of China (People’s Republic of China),” the U.S. military commander said.
“They have advanced all their capabilities and the build-up of arms formation is destabilizing for the region,” he claimed.
China maintains that its military profile is purely defensive, designed 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 J-20 stealth fighters, hypersonic missiles and two aircraft carriers, with a third under construction.
China has made a sharp rise in the military budget amid rising tensions with the United States and territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and Washington’s constant interference in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
China has sovereignty over the self-governing Chinese Taipei, and under the “One China” policy, virtually all countries recognize that sovereignty. But successive U.S. administrations have courted Taiwan officials in an attempt to violate Beijing.
Earlier this month, China announced a 7.1 increase in military spending. The Chinese military received a total of $ 230 billion in funding in 2022, which is still far less than the huge US military budget for 2022, which is $ 768 billion.