Communist China has increased the number of hostile intercepts of U.S. aircraft by more than five times in the past two years, according to the Pentagon.
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) military wing has aggressively intercepted more than 180 U.S. aircraft over that period, said Assistant Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner.
That number is more than all the intercepts during the previous decade combined.
Mr. Ratner said that China’s “coercive and risky operational behavior” in the Indo-Pacific risked open conflict between the two powers, which are also the world’s largest economies.
“In many cases, this type of operational behavior can cause accidents. And accidents can lead to inadvertent conflict,” Mr. Ratner said during an Oct. 17 press briefing.
If aggressive intercepts of U.S. allies and partners were included, Mr. Ratner said, the number of CCP-initiated incidents over the last two years would rise to more than 300.
Mr. Ratner said the Chinese regime’s “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior threatened to undermine a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The United States, he added, would continue its lawful military presence in the Indo-Pacific, which predates the existence of the CCP by nearly 100 years.
“The United States will not be deterred or coerced,” Mr. Ratner said.
“Our forces have helped maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific for decades and will continue to do so every day.”
CCP Risking War
The Pentagon has said that Beijing’s campaign of military coercion is part of a wider effort to undermine the rules-based international order.
To that end, the issue of CCP aggression in the Indo-Pacific has been of increasing concern to the international community in recent years, as Chinese fighter pilots have sought to force allied aircraft out of the sky and gone so far as to launch metal shards into their engines.
Complicating the issue is the fact that the CCP, under leader Xi Jinping, has systematically closed off all commander-to-commander communications with the U.S. military in the region.
Adm. John Aquilino told reporters on Oct. 17 that he had sent innumerable requests for communication to his Chinese counterparts during his two-and-a-half years as commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
“I have yet to have one of those requests accepted,” the admiral said.
The Biden administration had previously linked the severing of regional communications with the CCP to the visit of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. Aquilino’s statement, however, means that such communication was cut more than a year earlier.
The combination of the CCP’s aggression and communications blackout means that the United States and China are at increased likelihood of coming to open conflict, the admiral said.
“As the joint force commander, I’m most concerned about the potential for accidents,” he said. “The region has gotten more dangerous, and we’re watching that very closely.”
To that end, Aquilino said he had two key missions to fulfill in the Indo-Pacific. The first was to deter a war with China and maintain peace within the Indo-Pacific.
As to the second, he said, “If mission one fails, be prepared to fight and win.
“That said, my forces are ready to fight and win today.”