China ‘Clearly’ Developing Aviation and Maritime Capabilities to Counter U.S. in Indo-Pacific, Says Pentagon

November 8, 2021 5:42 PM
A screenshot of DF-26 launching in China.

China continues to pursue both aviation and maritime capabilities to counter the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

Asked about China’s range targets that are shaped like U.S. warships, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby pointed to the Pentagon’s recent assessment of China’s military power.

“They can speak to their exercises and what they’re training against. It’s been pretty fairly obvious and we just released the China military report a week ago that I think makes it very clear what our understanding of their intentions are and their capabilities are and how they’re developing those capabilities and to what ends,” Kirby told reporters today.
“And clearly they have invested a lot in particularly air and maritime capabilities that are designed largely to try to prevent the United States from having access to certain areas in the Indo-Pacific. What we’re focused on is that pacing challenge and making sure that we maintain the right capabilities and the right operational concepts to meet our security commitments in that part of the world.”

The comments come after USNI News reported on Sunday that China has built missile targets that are shaped like American warships, including an aircraft carrier and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, according to satellite imagery. The target range is located in the Taklamakan desert in the Ruoqiang region in central China.

While Kirby said he has not seen the satellite imagery photos, he noted that the Pentagon is worried about China’s “increasing intimidation” and “coercive behavior” throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

An Oct. 20, 2021 satellite image of a target in the shape of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the XXXX desert H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies Used with Permission

“Again, you’ve heard the secretary talk about this many times – he holds the [People’s Republic of China] as our number one pacing challenge. And what we’re focused on – I mean I haven’t seen these images and they can speak to what their bombing runs look like. That’s for them to speak to,” Kirby said. “What I can tell you is we’re focused on developing the capabilities, the operational concepts, making sure we have the resources and the right strategies in place so we can deal with the PRC as the number one pacing challenge.”

The Pentagon last week unveiled its annual China military report, which found that the People’s Liberation Army Navy has the world’s largest maritime force on the globe with 355 ships and counting, and growing ambitions to operate more versatile platforms beyond the Indo-Pacific region.

Asked if the Defense Department is worried about how quickly China is developing new capabilities, Kirby said: “Yes, of course. And it’s all laid out in the China military report. We’ve been nothing but transparent and clear about our growing concerns over the kinds of capabilities that the Chinese military continues to develop.”

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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