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
Eyeing China, Pentagon plans larger, 'more lethal' navy
(Agence France-Presse) - September 17, 2020 - 7:37am

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: September 14, 2020 - 4:13pm

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

September 14, 2020 - 4:13pm

The US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday.

Thanking Branstad for his service, Pompeo said in a tweet that he had "contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it (sic) is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair."

The former two-term Iowa governor, 73, had been in the post since May 2017, representing Washington in Beijing during a period of strained ties with China, marked by tensions over trade, regional territorial claims, the coronavirus pandemic, and unrest in Hong Kong.

The reasons for the ambassador's departure were not immediately clear. — AFP

September 10, 2020 - 9:33am

The United States has revoked visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers under an order by President Donald Trump that accused some of them of espionage, the State Department said Wednesday.

Trump, in a May 29 proclamation as tensions rose with Beijing on multiple fronts, declared that some Chinese nationals officially in the United States for study have stolen intellectual property and helped modernize China's military.

The State Department, offering its first figures on the effects of Trump's order, said that more than 1,000 visas have been revoked since it began implementing the proclamation on June 1. -- AFP

August 27, 2020 - 7:34pm

Beijing on Thursday slammed Washington's "tyrannical logic" over the latest US sanctions targeting Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, worsening tensions between the two superpowers.

In recent years, China has aggressively pursued its territorial claims in the South China Sea, building small shoals and reefs into military bases with airstrips and port facilities.

Both the US and Chinese militaries have recently ramped up their actions in the region, raising tensions between the two.

The US on Wednesday announced sanctions on two dozen Chinese companies and associated unnamed officials for taking part in building artificial islands in disputed waters. — AFP

August 18, 2020 - 4:05pm

TikTok has stepped up its defense against US accusations that the popular video app is a national security threat, denouncing what it called "rumors and misinformation" about its links to the Chinese government.

The video-snippet sharing service launched an online information hub on Monday after President Donald Trump gave its Chinese parent firm a 90-day deadline to divest TikTok before the app is banned in the United States.

A previous executive order, prohibiting US entities from doing business with TikTok, will take effect 45 days after August 6.

On a web page titled "The Last Sunny Corner of the Internet," TikTok maintained it was setting the record straight about the platform.

"TikTok has never provided any US user data to the Chinese government, nor would it do so if asked," the company said in the post. — AFP

August 10, 2020 - 5:16pm

China on Monday sanctioned 11 Americans, including senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in retaliation for similar US moves against Chinese officials over Beijing's crackdown in Hong Kong.

"China has decided to impose sanctions on some people that behaved badly on Hong Kong-related issues," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday, with Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth and National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman also on the list.

Washington had announced on Friday it was freezing the US assets of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior Chinese officials, in the toughest US action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law on the territory. — AFP

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