The Times has quoted unnamed US defence sources as saying that the Pentagon may lose a sea war with China if one breaks out in the Indo-Pacific region amid the increasing tensions between Beijing and Washington.
The sources referred to a spate of simulated Defence Department war games, including one focused on the year 2030, which indicated that US naval forces would be overwhelmed by the Chinese Navy's new attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and destroyers that are expected to enter service by that time.
One source claimed said in an "eye-opening" conclusion that China has "long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic [more than five times the speed of sound] missiles" which could lead to US aircraft carrier groups "suffering capital losses" in a potential battle.
Singling out Beijing's "accumulation of medium-range ballistic missiles", the sources also asserted that the US would struggle to defend Taiwan from a possible Chinese invasion and that the Guam military base, where American strategic B-2 and B-52 bombers are stationed, may be "wholly at risk".
This was echoed by Bonnie Glaser, director of the China power project at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, who was cited by The Times as saying that "every simulation that has been conducted looking at the threat from China by 2030, […] have all ended up with the defeat of the US".
"In the Pentagon and State Department and the White House, China is now seen without doubt as the biggest threat. We have been too passive in the past […]. Guam is now in range of their ballistic missiles, so the US would take a beating if there was a conflict", Glaser added.
One of the sources said in this context that US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has taken all the developments "on board and is aggressively moving to build the capabilities that we need to deter China from committing to a major confrontation".
TRUMP: "I call it the Super Duper Missile." pic.twitter.com/BV2UfiuCRL— Benny (@bennyjohnson) May 15, 2020
The remarks came after US Defence Department press secretary Jonathan Hoffman confirmed on Saturday that the Pentagon is developing what President Donald Trump earlier touted as a "super duper missile" which he claimed is "17 times faster than what they have right now".
Beijing Accused of Exploiting COVID-19 to Boost Its Clout
This followed US Navy Captain Michael Kafka, a spokesperson for the American military's Indo-Pacific Command, claiming in an interview with CNN that China is trying "to use the regional focus on COVID [-19] to assertively advance its own interests".
He also referred to the South China Sea, pledging that the US would continue to carry out a "global Freedom of Navigation operations programme in which US Navy ships safely and professionally challenge excessive maritime claims, including those" in the area.
The statement was preceded by General Timothy Ray, commander of the US Air Force Global Strike command, pointing out that the coronavirus pandemic would not keep the American military from responding to Chinese actions.
"We have the capability and capacity to provide long range fires anywhere, anytime and can bring overwhelming firepower, even during the pandemic", Ray said.
President Donald Trump, for his part, on Thursday announced that the US may completely cut off diplomatic relations with China over the ongoing coronavirus crisis and save at least half a trillion dollars by doing so. Earlier, POTUS accused Beijing of attempting to conceal coronavirus-related information, and claimed that he had seen evidence that COVID-19 originated at a Wuhan virology laboratory.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has rejected the accusations, urging the US to "handle its domestic affairs properly first", and adding that World Health Organisation officials have "repeatedly stated that there is no evidence showing the virus was made in a lab".
US officials are "hyping up the issue of origins, insinuating that the virus had something to do with the Wuhan Institute of Virology; it's not difficult to see through their tricks which intend to muddy the waters, deflect attention and shift the blame to others", ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian underscored.