The Chinese military has sent a clear message for the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea: Your FONOPs will not be fun ops . Now, it appears likely that China’s aggressive naval ambitions may spread beyond its artificial islands to the country’s nascent military presence in Africa.
Just two days after the Navy destroyer USS McCampbell sailed near islands disputed in the South China Sea, People’s Liberation Army Navy officer Senior Capt. Zhang Junshe issued a stern warning that the United States would be to blame for any kinetic encounter between U.S. and PLAN vessels — the latest in a series of escalating encounters between the two navies that included a suggestion from another senior Chinese military officer that their vessels should attack U.S. Navy ships outright.
“Both countries warships definitely have to come into close proximity and it’s easy for there to be a misunderstanding or an error of judgment, even a collision,” Junshe, currently a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told Reuters on Wednesday, a reference to the October 2018 near miss between two vessels.
“If there is a collision, the root cause is the United States.”
But while speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Junshe made the case for developing China’s man-made islands in response to U.S. Navy FONOPs, a move that, as the Associated Press notes, runs counter to the 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping to halt the development of airfields and other fortifications.
“If our on-island personnel and installations come under threat in future, then we necessarily will take measures to boost our defensive capabilities,” he said.