A senior Navy intelligence official issued a blunt warning last week that China’s growing “hegemonistic” threat to security is destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region.
“Make no mistake, the [Chinese] navy is focused on war at sea and about sinking an opposing fleet,” said Capt. James Fanell, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations at the U.S. Pacific Fleet, at a defense conference in San Diego on Jan. 31.
The comments come amid growing tensions between Japan and China over Chinese claims to the Senkaku Islands, near Okinawa and Taiwan, as well as increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea.
“They now regularly challenge exclusive economic-zone resource rights that South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam once thought were guaranteed to them by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.
The Chinese naval harassment expanded outward over time to cover most of the South China Sea and East China Sea.
“China is challenging other nations’ rights,” he said, under the rubric of “what’s mine is mine, and we’ll negotiate what’s yours.”
Chinese surveillance ships in the region “have no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China’s claims,” Capt. Fanell said, noting that for Beijing, the sea- surveillance agency is “a full-time maritime sovereignty harassment organization” with no other mission.
Capt. Fanell said his use of terms “expansion” and “expand” to describe Chinese activities might be considered controversial and could be used by critics to promote the caricature of a Pentagon that is promoting what China calls the “China threat theory.”
“But for those of us who have watched this on a daily basis over the last decade, there is no better description for what China has been doing,” he said.
China’s seizure last year of Scarborough Shoal, a reef claimed by the Philippines, is a clear example of “Chinese aggression,” he said, adding that, in carrying out the aggression, China “bullies its adversary” as part of a careful series of actions and statements.
“Predictably, China’s conduct is destabilizing the East Asia maritime environment,” he said.
Chinese aggressiveness has increased the welcome for the U.S. Navy by all states in the region concerned about “a hegemonic China,” he said.
“We now have more places to send ships than we have ships to send them,” he added.