China Has Built ‘Great Wall of SAMs’ In Pacific: US Adm. Davidson

November 19, 2018

Breaking Defense:

HALIFAX: By turning reefs and atolls in the disputed South China Sea into fortified artificial islands, complete with anti-aircraft Surface-to-Air Missiles, China has transformed “what was a great wall of sand just three years ago [into] a great wall of SAMs,” the US commander in the Pacific said here today.

The militarization of the vital waterway for commercial shipping has been a major concern of Washington and its Asian neighbors for the past several years. But China’s increasingly aggressive challenges of American naval vessels operating in what the US and its allies consider international waters — including a near collision of two ships in September — raises the specter of a deadly accident that might escalate into war. And if a war breaks out, the island bases become a strategic southward extension of China’s land-based defense against US ships and planes, known in the trade as Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD).

As China builds more warships for its navy and continues to militarize its coast guard, Beijing has already dwarfed the fleet the United States can commit to the region, at least if you’re counting the number of hulls in the water. (Many of the Chinese ships are smaller, shorter-range coastal vessels, however). So, after the chief of Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), Adm. Philip Davidson, spoke to the annual Halifax Security Conference here, I asked him how he plans to keep up.

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