The stark warning came from former US Navy commander James Kraska, who said: “The US has lost advantage throughout the spectrum of operations, from low-level interaction against China’s maritime militia to higher-end conflict scenarios. “In other words, China has escalation dominance, because it has the power to deter any US turn towards escalation. The US is outmatched in all of the scenarios.”
The disaster for Washington comes largely due to Beijing’s unwavering military development of the Spratly Islands, at the heart of the South China Sea dispute.
Described by many as “island fortresses”, China has engulfed the Spratly chain with man made island bases, and has been accused of forming them specifically for military purposes.
The moving of its aircraft carriers, airstrips and weapons into the region has also earned the cluster of bases the nickname: “The Great Wall of Sand.”
A leaked set of photos given to a Filipino newspaper showed just how elaborate China’s development of military bases has been.
Some photographs showed cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.
Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs.
This was something that Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command warned of in 2018, stating that China could seize military control.
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Manila has clashed with Beijing on a number of occasions over the South China Sea.
In 1994, China had a similar confrontation by asserting its ownership of Mischief Reef, which was inside the claimed economic exclusion zone of the Philippines.
In 2016, the Philippines won a case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidating China’s claims to almost the entire stretch of sea. China does not recognise the ruling.
The tribunal in The Hague found that China had violated sovereign Filipino rights under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
As China’s ambitions in the region show no sign of waning, the US is becoming the second power in the contested waters.