A top U.S. admiral issued a warning on the possibility of war between the United States and China. President Donald Trump’s pick for the next ambassador to Australia, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., last week, told Congress China has a “crystal clear” intent to dominate the South China Sea and were building military bases that could pose a threat to the U.S.

China, he alleged, is using “military modernization, influence operations and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific to their advantage.”

Harris Jr., 62, a highly decorated combat naval officer has served in the navy for 39 years. He holds a Master's degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and attended Oxford University according to a White House statement.

During his service in the navy, "he served in every geographic combatant command and has held seven command assignments, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and VP-46," the statement said.

Harris Jr., in an ominous statement, warned Beijing’s military capabilities have gained momentum in the region.

“Judging by China’s regional behavior I am concerned that China will now work to undermine the rules-based international order, not just in the Indo-Pacific but on a global scale,” he told the House armed services committee.

“If the U.S. does not keep pace [Pacific Command] will struggle to compete with the People’s Liberation Army on future battlefields,” he added.

Harris Jr. said, as a military guy, he foresees a war that needs to be prevented. However, to be better prepared in case of a war, the U.S. should plan and resource to win, he pointed, according to the Guardian.

“At the end of the day the ability to wage war is important or you become a paper tiger. I’m hopeful that it won’t come to a conflict with China, but we must all be prepared for that if it should come to that,” Harris Jr. said.

Harris Jr. said it is extremely alarming to find China’s military bases in islands of the South China Sea that neighboring countries have laid claims to.

South China Sea Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, May 21, 2015. Photo: Reuters

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague said China had no legal basis to support claims of historic sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea. Despite the ruling, China continues to enhance its military capabilities in the region.

“China’s impressive military build-up could soon challenge the United States across almost every domain,” Harris Jr. warned.

Harris Jr. praised Australia for their unflaying support in defense and security to the U.S over the years and said they will depend on Australia for assistance if conflict should ever arise between the United States and China.

“Australia is one of the keys to a rules-based international order,” Harris Jr. said. “I look to my Australian counterparts for their assistance, I admire their leadership in the battlefield and in the corridors of power in the world."

“They are a key ally of the United States and they have been with us in every major conflict since world war one,” he added.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed Trump’s nomination as ambassador to Australia on Twitter. Turnbull said: “Great to see Admiral Harry Harris nominated by @realDonaldTrump as US Ambassador to Australia. Look forward to seeing you in Canberra, Harry!”