China says it will expand its naval reach after state media warns of “inevitable” war with the US
After Chinese state media warned that war with the United States may be “inevitable,” Beijing has published a policy paper detailing how the military will shift its focus from land and coastlines to the open seas. China’s State Council released a white paper today that criticizes “external countries…busy meddling in South China Sea affairs” and sets out an “active defense” military strategy for the country.
The paper comes a day after an editorial (link in Chinese) in the state-run Chinese tabloid Global Times said conflict between China and the US will be unavoidable if the Washington doesn’t lay off Beijing for building islands and military facilities in disputed parts of the South China Sea.
“We do not want a military conflict with the United States, but if it were to come we have to accept it,” the paper said. (Editorials in state-run papers are not official representations of Beijing’s position, but often reflect government sentiment.)
The US has been calling on China to halt the construction of entire islands with ports, army barracks and at least one air strip near the Spratly Islands. The area—one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and home to fertile fishing grounds as well as possibly oil and gas—is the focus of overlapping claims by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei.
According to the white paper, the People’s Liberation Army Navy will expand its defense perimeter to include “open seas protection.” The air force will also expand its focus to include offensive as well as defensive military capabilities. “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked,” the paper said.