30 October 2015
When a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed near one of Beijing’s artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea this week, it was operating in a maritime domain bristling with Chinese ships.
While the U.S. Navy is expected to keep its technological edge in Asia for decades, China’s potential trump card is sheer weight of numbers, with dozens of naval and coastguard vessels routinely deployed in the South China Sea.
Asian and U.S. naval officers say encounters with Chinese vessels, once relatively rare, are now frequent, even at the outer edges of the controversial nine-dash line Beijing uses to stake its claim to 90 percent of the waterway.
Such encounters will only increase after U.S. officials said the U.S. Navy would conduct regular freedom-of-navigation operations akin to the patrol by the USS Lassen, which penetrated the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit of Subi Reef in the Spratly archipelago on Tuesday.
… “China has homefield advantage,” said Sam Bateman, a retired Australian naval officer and an adviser to Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
“At any given time they’ve got the numbers … and quantity not quality can be important in some situations”, including confronting perceived intruders, he said.
Bateman and some other regional security analysts believe U.S. warships could find themselves surrounded if China sought to prevent future freedom-of-navigation patrols.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 13/11/2015