New Delhi: Underlying that China is continuing with its “bullying of nations” in the region, a senior US Naval officer Tuesday said increased weaponisation and build-up of the Chinese Navy is a threat to countries in the region.
The senior official, who is on a visit to India and met with Navy Chief Admiral K.B. Singh, pitched for joint patrols between India and the US in the contentious South China Sea and criticised the One Border One Road (OBOR) initiative of China.
“I think the increased military build-up threatens partners and countries in the region,” Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said interacting with a select group of journalists here.
Asked if he has seen a decrease in China flexing its muscles, he said, “I don’t think I have. I have seen continued bullying of nations in the region. I have seen islands or rocks turned into man-made islands, militarised despite the conversation being there of defensive purposes.”
Talking about the increased Chinese focus on building naval capability, the Admiral said the US has been observing.
“It is clear that their intent is to operate in much broader area and the area includes Indian ocean. I think there will have to be carrier deployment (soon) and none of us should be surprised,” he said.
Early this year, then Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba had said that China has added 80 ships in the last five years to bolster its naval capability and the Chinese Navy is a force which is “here to stay“.
He added that no navy has grown so rapidly in the last 200 years as the Chinese Navy and the focus was on building battle carrier group.
Asked about the new anti-ship missiles being developed by China, Admiral Aquilino said, “The increased weaponisation by China is a threat to free and like-minded nations. There is no doubt that those weapons are designed to continue to threaten the nations that they may have disputed with.”
Talking about OBOR, he said while it has been categorised as an economic initiative, they have absolutely military intent.
“It may seem to have economic benefit in the short term for these nations, but they generate problems in the future,” he said.