— Alex Ansary (@AlexAnsary) November 1, 2017
China has practiced bombing runs targeting the U.S. territory of Guam, one of a host of activities making U.S. forces here consider Beijing the most worrisome potential threat in the Pacific, even as North Korea pursues a nuclear warhead.
Beyond the well-publicized military build up on man-made islands in the South China Sea, China has built up its fleet of fighters to the extent that it operates a daily, aggressive campaign to contest airspace over the East China Sea, South China Sea and beyond, U.S. military officials in the region said. China has also taken several other non-military steps that are viewed as attempts to make it much more difficult for the U.S. to operate there and defend allies in the future.
The officials described the escalatory behaviors by China in a briefing they provided to reporters traveling with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.
The officials said despite increased threats by North Korea as it pursues its nuclear weapons program, a conflict with North Korea is still viewed as “a fight we can win,” they said. With China, they said they “worry about the way things are going.”
China “is very much the long-term challenge in the region,” said Dunford, who was not part of the briefing. “When we look at the capabilities China is developing, we’ve got to make sure we maintain the ability to meet our alliance commitments in the Pacific.”
Over the last year Japan has scrambled 900 sorties to intercept Chinese fighters challenging Japan’s air defense identification zone, or ADIZ. In 2013 China announced borders for its own ADIZ, borders which overlapped Japan’s zone and included the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Since then, increased interactions between Japanese and Chinese aircraft ultimately resulted in Japan relocating two fighter squadrons to Naha Air Base on Okinawa to more easily meet the incursions, the officials said.
“We now have, on a daily basis, armed Chinese Flankers and Japanese aircraft” coming in close proximity of each other, the officials said, adding that intercepts between the U.S. and China are also increasing.