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Which power has the potential to dominate the Pacific?

The United States expressed concern about the growth in both quantity and quality of the ships of the Chinese Navy; as well as actions to destabilize the regional situation.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) is now seen as the key player capable of nullifying US control over the Western Pacific. Indeed, today China is proving not only to be capable of building ships but also to use them competently.

In addition, what is known about the PLA Navy’s programs in arming the fleet, aircraft, and various weapons. All of this puts a strain on the regional situation and sparks a new arms race.

Although the US has not yet been defeated by China in military power, they believe that China has many problems and weaknesses in its naval organization that the US can exploit. However, American experts also admit that China is taking huge steps to eliminate them.

Up to now, the Chinese navy has superior strength compared to the US fleet. At the beginning of this year, the PLA navy owned 333 warships, while the US had 296; but American warships are of higher quality with better strength and more capable.

It is estimated that by 2025, the Chinese Navy will have 400 warships and by 2030 425 (this is just the number of surface ships, not counting submarines). However, the patrol boats, corvettes and frigates guarding China’s territorial waters are more than enough to make it difficult for the US Navy to operate near the Chinese coast.

The main strength of the US Navy is aircraft carriers supported by cruisers, destroyers, and nuclear submarines; and all the most powerful weapons of the US Navy have gathered in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. And fortunately for the United States, no one is currently at war in the Atlantic.

Carrier strike group
US Navy carrier strike group

The main task of the US now is to balance forces in a tense area like the Pacific Ocean. This is a difficult task, but it must be done because the Chinese navy is actively developing new fleets; The US itself has to admit, most of the warships launched by China recently, roughly equivalent to US warships.

So the US naval bases in the Pacific will have to strain themselves against Chinese expansion; but fortunately for the US, China has many rival countries in the sea and land such as Japan, India, and a number of AESAN countries that have a conflict with China’s.

Although the US cannot fully rely on the forces of its allies in the region, even if they shoulder the responsibility with the US in dealing with China; but it’s also a share, which China can’t have like the US.

If the mere comparison of the number of Chinese and American ships is not entirely correct, it is also necessary to consider the tonnage of the warships; But the key point is the number of attack ships, capable of dealing with combat missions in the region, and the capacity of bases to support, repair and provide logistics for these ships.

Currently, the US Navy has 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, but 10 will be decommissioned in the next 6 years. The newest ships of this class entered service in 1993, and the oldest was in 1983.

Chinese navy carrier strike group
Chinese navy carrier strike group

And if you compare the Ticonderoga-class battleship with China’s Type 055-class destroyer, it is difficult to say who will win. The bookies will bet on the Chinese warship because it is newer, larger in displacement and possesses more offensive weapons and better avionics than the US warship.

However, the US has an ally Japan, currently, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force owns Atago-class destroyers, although this is a warship similar to the US Arleigh Burke-class, but equipped with many modern weapons developed by Japan.

So in any case, there are three countries that want to control, if not the entire Pacific region, also a large part. And two of the three countries included in this section are located in Asia, namely Japan and China.

The Japanese Navy is not inferior to China in dynamism and will soon have an aircraft carrier; although not a traditional airfield, they are converted from the latest helicopter carriers (launched in 2015 and 2017). Plus 2 destroyers and 11 submarines from the last 10 years.

In the past 10 years, the US has only launched 1 aircraft carrier, 12 destroyers (including 3 Zumwalt-class warships), 14 nuclear submarines. In the past 10 years, China has launched 20 destroyers of all kinds, 2 aircraft carriers, 3 submarines, 26 frigates, and 63 corvettes.

Japanese navy destroyer
Japanese navy destroyer

For comparison, the Pacific Fleet of Russia (also a competitor) in the past 10 years, has only added 3 corvettes, 2 nuclear submarines of the Borei project, 2 diesel submarines- Kilo class submarine. Several warships are being built, but progress is slow.

Russia’s Pacific Fleet is really not “on the same level” as the US, Japanese and Chinese navies; Russia has too few modern warships and the number of ships from the Soviet era is too old for new ambitions; Russia can no longer be considered a full-fledged political player on the Pacific chessboard.

That’s why the Americans implemented the “pivot” strategy to the Asia-Pacific region; The main aim is to contain China’s ambitions, and Washington is well aware of this. And so is Beijing, which is why China continues to invest in building up its navy.

Thus, in the Asia-Pacific region, there are currently many naval forces, but the “legacy” really belongs to three great powers, namely the US – China and Japan; in which the US and Japan hold the position of “time and man’s peace”, while China temporarily holds the position of “geographical advantage”. And with the overwhelming advantage, the US is indeed the strongest, but they also have to be wary of China’s naval power.

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