The head of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Command said Tuesday that the branch must invest in next-generation anti-surface missiles, amid reports that the Chinese military is building its defense capabilities in the South China Sea. The current crop of weapons being used by the U.S. are not good enough, Adm. Harry Harris said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
He said the influx of Chinese military hardware was escalating the tense standoff that had developed between Washington, Beijing and other regional countries over the right of passage through international waters and disputed islands.
"In my opinion, China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea," Harris said, according a transcript of the report provided by the U.S. Pacific Command. "You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise."
China seeks to control east Asia, US commander tells senators: Adm Harry Harris tells armed services committee... https://t.co/53Nlg8olRX
— Martin Sketchley (@ELTExperiences) February 23, 2016
Harris’ assessment comes amid reports last week that China had installed a surface-to-air missile battery on the disputed Paracel Islands near Vietnam and a high-tech radar station on one of its man-made islands in the Spratly Island range further south near Malaysia.
While the U.S. had sent ships into the disputed areas to test China’s claimed sovereignty over large chunks of the South China Sea, Adm. Harris wants more advanced weapons placed in the area.
"When I started flying P-3s in the 1970s, we had the Harpoon missile, and it's the same one we have today," Harris said, asking the committee to speed up the introduction of the new aircraft-launched Long Range Anti-Surface Missile, or LRASM. "The LRASM: it's a great capability that we need to bring on fast.”
The leader of the U.S. Pacific Command also said that the Navy needed more attack submarines in the region to combat the growing and developing Chinese navy.