The US Secretary of the Navy has raised the alarm that China‘s naval fleet surpasses America’s in number of ships, and is growing faster than the US has current capacity to match. 

‘It is no secret that the People’s Republic of China seeks to upend our dominance on the oceans across the globe,’ said Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro in remarks at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Wednesday.

Del Toro said that China’s navy has recently added over one hundred combatants to its fleet, calling it ‘a naval buildup that is a key component of its increasingly aggressive military posture globally.’

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy now has approximately 340 ships, according to Del Toro. The US Navy says its fleet is ‘over 280 ships ready to be deployed,’ and thought the exact number is unclear, it is less than 300.  

Del Toro said China plans to field a fleet of 440 ships by 2030, far outstripping the Pentagon’s stated goal is to have 350 manned ships by 2045.   

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro (right) raised the alarm that China's naval fleet surpasses America's in number of ships, and is growing faster than the US has current capacity to match

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro (right) raised the alarm that China’s naval fleet surpasses America’s in number of ships, and is growing faster than the US has current capacity to match

A Chinese warship is seen taking part in exercises in the Arabian Sea near Karachi, Pakistan, on February 13. China's People's Liberation Army Navy now has approximately 340 ships

A Chinese warship is seen taking part in exercises in the Arabian Sea near Karachi, Pakistan, on February 13. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy now has approximately 340 ships

‘Because of the incursion of a Chinese balloon into our air space, most Americans’ alarm bells have now gone off,’ said Del Toro.

However, he added that many Americans were not aware that China ‘consistently attempts to violate the maritime sovereignty and economic well-being of other nations, including our allies and trading partners in South China Sea and elsewhere. 

In recent years, China has grown increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea, a vast swath of ocean that China claims as its own, though the claim is not recognized under international law. 

China’s disregard for the rules-based international order is particularly troubling in the maritime domain, from the Taiwan Straits to the high seas,’ said Del Toro.

‘The values espoused by the Chinese Communist Party are incompatible with individual liberty, with democracy, and with respect for human rights,’ he added.

Del Toro claimed in remarks to reporters that China’s shipbuilding capacity far exceeds that of the US, saying that China has 13 shipyards, including one that has a shipbuilding capacity greater than all US yards combined, according to CNN.  

The US maintains a powerful advantage in aircraft carriers, with the Navy’s 11 to China’s three. China has also reportedly struggled to train enough ship-borne fighter jet pilots to properly man its carriers.

However, experts say that in a full-scale naval war, the bigger overall fleet almost always has a decisive advantage.

A US warship takes part in multinational exercises. The Navy has roughly 280 warships

A US warship takes part in multinational exercises. The Navy has roughly 280 warships

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) is seen in a file photo

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) is seen in a file photo

The US Navy's fleet size is not projected to reach 350 until the 2040s, according to the Navy's latest projections, seen in a CBO report out Wednesday

The US Navy’s fleet size is not projected to reach 350 until the 2040s, according to the Navy’s latest projections, seen in a CBO report out Wednesday

CBO documents detail the Navy's shipbuilding plans over the next several years. The fleet will likely shrink before it grows, as old ships are decommissioned

CBO documents detail the Navy’s shipbuilding plans over the next several years. The fleet will likely shrink before it grows, as old ships are decommissioned

Sam Tangredi, the Leidos Chair of Future Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College and a former US Navy captain, issued such a warning last month in the January issue of the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine.

His analysis of 25 historical naval wars, the side with the larger fleet won in all but three cases.

‘In a war between equally competent technological near peers—absent a series of amazing strokes of luck—the larger fleet always won,’ he wrote.  

Meanwhile, China’s provocations continue to increase on the South China Sea.

On February 6, a Chinese coast guard ship directed a ‘military-grade laser’ at a Philippine coast guard vessel, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge.

The Philippine ship was assisting a navy mission to deliver food and supplies to troops on an atoll in the disputed South China Sea. 

The incident took place at the Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles off the Philippine province of Palawan. The shoal is home to a small Philippine military contingent on board a rusty ship. 

‘I think it’s time for the Chinese government to restrain its forces so that it does not commit any provocative act that will endanger the lives of people,’ Philippines military spokesperson Medel Aguilar told reporters, according to Reuters.

Aguilar quoted the Philippine defense chief as saying the Chinese action was ‘offensive’ and unsafe.

The Philippines on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser on February 6. Pictured: An image released by the Philippine coast guard showing a green light light coming from the Chinese vessel

The Philippines on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser on February 6. Pictured: An image released by the Philippine coast guard showing a green light light coming from the Chinese vessel

Manila said the laser (pictured) temporarily blinded some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a 'blatant' violation of Manila's sovereign rights

Manila said the laser (pictured) temporarily blinded some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a ‘blatant’ violation of Manila’s sovereign rights

US naval operations chief Admiral Michael Gilday was in Manila on Wednesday, where he said the United States is ‘committed’ to conducting joint maritime patrols with the Philippines in the disputed waterway to deter Chinese aggression.

Gilday said the countries were ‘in the beginning of the planning stages’ for combined maritime activities, but he insisted the United States was ‘committed and focused’, AFP reported.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

In Manila, Gilday held talks with Philippine navy chief Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci and military chief of staff General Andres Centino.

They agreed ‘in principle that we need to move forward, focused and with speed, in order to improve our interoperability together in the South China Sea and across the region’, Gilday told reporters.

Given its proximity to Taiwan and its surrounding waters, cooperation from the Philippines would be key in the event of a conflict with China, which a four-star US Air Force general has warned could happen as early as 2025.

DailyMail

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