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WASHINGTON, DC – The United States should keep an eye on China’s rapidly growing naval forces, a part of which China has hidden as civilian fishing boats, a prominent U.S. expert on China warned at an event on Wednesday.
China’s regular navy already has more ships than the U.S. — a little more than 300 to the U.S.’s 277. But Andrew Erickson, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, warns that it is China’s informal sea forces that need close watching.
Event - Jamestown - Foundation - Erickson - Elements
At an event hosted by the Jamestown Foundation, Erickson described the three elements of China’s maritime forces: the navy, coast guard, and a maritime militia – or, as he said a friend’s five-year-old son acutely described it: “a regular navy, the police navy, and the sneaky navy.”
The “sneaky navy” refers to the maritime militia, which China passes off as civilian fishing boats but consists of thousands of vessels and personnel, who are fishermen by day but are organized and trained as a militia that can be called up as needed.
Maritime - Militia - Neighbors - China - Control
That maritime militia is aimed at overpowering its neighbors and advancing China’s control over the South China Sea where six nations have disputed territorial claims. An estimated $5 trillion in global trade also passes through the South China Sea.
Erickson said the maritime militia has a small elite subcomponent at the top, entrusted with participation in sea encounters and incidents with other nations.
China - Force - Vessels - Feet - Tons
Now, he said, China is developing an even more elite force, which consists of 84 vessels that are each nearly 200 feet long and up to 750 tons, have powerful water cannons, strong external rails useful for ramming other boats, and engage in exercises like loading light weapons.
“These folks don’t fish,” he said.
Forward - Deployments - China - Outposts - Spratly
Rather, he said, they do rotational forward deployments to China’s outposts in the Spratly...
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