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World

Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, 'more lethal' navy

Agence France-Presse
Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, 'more lethal' navy
In this file photo taken on January 14, 2020 US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a press conference with Japan's Minister of Defense Taro Kono at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced September 16, 2020 an ambitious plan to expand the US Navy with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft to confront the growing maritime challenge from China.
AFP / Eric BARADAT

WASHINGTON, United States — US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Wednesday an ambitious plan to expand the US Navy with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft to confront the growing maritime challenge from China.

The Pentagon chief said a sweeping review of US naval power dubbed "Future Forward" had laid out a "game-changer" plan that would expand the US sea fleet to more than 355 ships, from the current 293. 

The plan, which requires adding tens of billions of dollars to the US Navy's budget between now and 2045, is aimed at maintaining superiority over Chinese naval forces, seen as the primary threat to the United States.

"The future fleet will be more balanced in its ability to deliver lethal effects from the air, from the sea, and from under the sea," Esper said in a speech at the Rand Corp. in California.

The expansion will add "more and smaller" surface ships; more submarines; surface and subsurface vessels that are optionally manned, unmanned and autonomous; and a broad range of unmanned carrier-based aircraft. 

The plan is for a fleet of ships more able to survive a high-intensity conflict, to project US power and presence, and to deliver precision strikes at very long distances, he said.

An example, Esper added, is a new guided missile frigate program, producing ships with "increased lethality, survivability, capability and capacity to conduct distributed warfare."

He also said trials were underway on the Sea Hunter, a 132-feet (40 meters) trimaran drone that can autonomously survey the seas for rival submarines for more than two months at a time.

"These efforts are the next step in realizing our future fleet, one in which unmanned systems perform a variety of warfighting functions, from delivering lethal fire and laying mines, to conducting resupply or surveilling the enemy," Esper said.

"This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the years and decades to come."

Chinese navy larger

Esper reiterated that China is the top US security threat and that the Indo-Pacific region is the "priority theater" for the US military.

"Not only is this region important because it is a hub of global trade and commerce, it is also the epicenter of great power competition with China," he said.

A Pentagon report on the People's Liberation Army released early this month said that Beijing has the world's largest naval fleet with 350 ships and submarines.

Still, Esper stressed, the Chinese navy lags in strength and capability.

"Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the PRC years to match our capability on the high seas."

Esper said reaching the goal of 355 ships means the navy will have to grab a larger percent of the Pentagon budget, but also that the United States has to put more resources into expanding and modernizing shipyards, where China has a clear advantage. 

CHINA

MARK ESPER

PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY

UNITED STATES

US NAVY

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 27, 2022 - 9:56am

The US decision to disinvite China from upcoming maritime exercises in the Pacific is "non-constructive," China's Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi says.

"We find that a very non-constructive move," Wang says at a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the two met in Washington.

"It's also a decision taken lightly and is unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the US." — Agence France-Presse

November 27, 2022 - 9:56am

China has donated $100 million to Cuba to help it survive a crippling economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the island nation's Deputy Prime Minister Alejandro Gil said Saturday.

The donation came as Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel concluded a visit to China, part of a rare foreign trip.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Diaz-Canel met on Friday and "the offer arose of a donation of around $100 million by China," Gil told Cuban state television.

Gil, who is also Cuba's economy minister, said the money would go toward "priorities" on the island, which has been rocked by its worst economic crisis in three decades.

-- AFP

November 26, 2022 - 9:54am

US authorities announces a ban on the import or sale of communications equipment deemed "an unacceptable risk to national security" -- including gear from Chinese giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE.

Both firms have been on a roster of companies listed as a threat by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the new rules bar future authorizations of their equipment.

The move is the latest in a series of actions to limit the access of Chinese telecoms firms in United States networks, and comes amid a long-running standoff between the world's two biggest economies. — AFP

November 19, 2022 - 1:30pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Vice President Kamala Harris call for open communication during a brief meeting on Saturday, days after his extensive talks with President Joe Biden. 

Harris spoke to the Chinese leader as they entered a retreat in Bangkok during a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, a White House official says.

The vice president reinforced Biden's message that "we must maintain open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition between our countries", the official said on condition of anonymity. — AFP

November 15, 2022 - 10:32am

The United States is pressing China and other G20 members to do more on debt relief for the world's poorest countries, a senior US official says.

The issue will be highlighted in the final joint statement when the summit in the Indonesian resort island of Bali ends this week, the official said, but there will not be unanimity.

"What you're going to see in the G20 statement is that 19 members of the G20 came together to say this is a core, first-order issue that we need to take collective action with respect to, and you'll see that, you know, one country is still blocking progress," the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He would not name the hold-out country but this appeared likely to be China, a massive creditor to poor countries around the world in a policy that Western countries have condemned as "debt traps" used to tighten Beijing's grip on the global economy.

The official mentioned similar opposition to joint agreement on restructuring such debts at the October meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. — AFP

November 14, 2022 - 1:32pm

US President Joe Biden meets China's Xi Jinping in Bali on Monday hoping to set "guardrails" for relations between the countries, as the world's 20 largest economies hold their first major post-pandemic summit.

The superpower sitdown will be Biden's first in-person summit with Xi since taking office. The pair last met in 2017, when Biden was vice president.

The leaders meet with rivalry between the world's top two economies intensifying sharply and with Beijing becoming more powerful and more assertive about replacing the US-led order that has prevailed since World War II.

The talks on the margins of the G20 have the air of the icy Cold War conclaves between American and Soviet leaders at Potsdam, Vienna or Yalta that decided the fate of millions.

Biden has spoken about the meeting establishing each country's "red lines".

The overarching goal will be setting "guardrails" and "clear rules of the road", a senior White House official told reporters hours before the meeting. -- AFP

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