That includes the development of land, sea and air-launched missiles to repel and possibly sink opposing vessels, expressed most emphatically by the land-based DF-21D ballistic missile known as the “carrier killer”.
Recent months have also seen a substantial increase in Chinese military flights just south-west of Taiwan, the self-governing island republic claimed by Beijing and which it threatens to annex by force. Washington provides Taiwan with much of its weaponry and US law requires that it ensures the island can defend itself and treats threats to it as matters of “grave concern”.
The images released by Maxar come amid growing concerns over the possibility of military conflict between the world’s two biggest economies, who are at odds over a litany of political and economic issues.
The Pentagon this month issued a report saying China is expanding its nuclear force much faster than US officials predicted just a year ago. That appears designed to enable Beijing to match or surpass US global power by mid-century, the report said.
US defence officials have said they are increasingly wary of China’s intentions, largely with regard to the status of Taiwan.
“The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen (China’s) ability to ‘fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’ – a likely euphemism for the United States,” the report said.
China’s navy and coast guard are also adding new vessels at a record pace, concentrating them in the South China Sea, the strategic waterway that China claims virtually in its entirety.
While the US Navy remains predominant, its resources are divided between the Indo-Pacific, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean and other regions where American interests lie.
China’s test of a hypersonic weapon capable of partially orbiting Earth before re-entering the atmosphere and gliding on a manoeuvrable path to its target also surprised top US military leaders. Beijing insisted it was testing a reusable space vehicle, not a missile, but the weapon system’s design is meant to evade US missile defences.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the test was “very close” to being a “Sputnik moment,” akin to the 1957 launching by the Soviet Union of the world’s first space satellite, which fed fears the United States had fallen behind technologically.
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