The United States and its allies must act more urgently in the face of rapidly evolving Chinese military tactics, the new US commander of the Indo-Pacific region warned on Saturday.
Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum, Admiral John Aquilino urged allies to engage in more joint military exercises, which have grown in size and complexity in the region in recent years.
The exercises are designed to enable like-minded countries to come together quickly and work together seamlessly in a crisis.
In early October, a multinational combined fleet of four aircraft carriers and support ships with more than 15,000 sailors participated in an exercise in the waters of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, a demonstration intended to show solidarity in the face of heightened tensions in the region. . The Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg was part of the exercise.
Aquilino said allies interested in defending the current international framework are welcome.
What’s important, he said, is appreciation for how the world is changing in Asia, sometimes not in a good way.
The admiral did not mention China by name during his formal speech, but was more direct in speaking to journalists.
“We are talking about intention, understanding where the [globe’s] greatest strategic competition is now underway,” Aquilino told reporters during a roundtable Saturday afternoon. “And then be able to use all your capabilities, the strengths of a country and connect to this global array of like-minded countries operating to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
Aquilino said the United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and the rapid build-up of advanced Chinese military and paramilitary capabilities is a concern.
“Look at what the Chinese have said. President Xi [Jinping] has ordered its troops to be on par with the United States by 2027. Those are his words,” Aquilino said.
Tension has risen dramatically in recent months, in part due to China’s repeated test of the Taiwanese air defense zone with fighter jets and bombers.
Taiwan, which is claimed by China as its own, has come under increasing military and political pressure to accept Beijing’s rule, much to international concern.
Xi has vowed to achieve “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan.
China has tested hypersonic missiles that can deliver conventional – and soon nuclear – warheads anywhere in the world in minutes. It is also reportedly expanding its nuclear arsenal.
Chinese coast guard ships blocked Thursday and fired water cannons at two Philippine boats carrying supplies to a disputed outpost in the South China Sea. The Filipinos filed a formal diplomatic protest.
In recent years, China has laid claim to almost the entire South China Sea and constructed artificial islands where missile batteries have been installed.
Australia recently struck a deal with the United States for a nuclear-powered submarine and broke a contract with France to buy conventional submarines. The way the deal was handled angered France politically, straining relations between allies.
Canada’s top acting military commander said the Australians have made a difficult decision at an increasingly difficult time.
“Australia, like any country, has done a security assessment of their neighborhood. What capabilities do they need to protect their sovereignty?” Gene. Wayne Eyre said in an interview with CBC News. “And let’s face it, that’s an increasingly dangerous part of the world. So getting one of our closest allies to invest in this kind of technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada has no plans to purchase nuclear submarines of its own and rejected the deal involving the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, saying it was only about selling defense hardware.