The U.S. Navy’s top admiral said Friday that he has not ruled out sending an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait despite increased riskS due to advanced Chinese military capabilities that now pose greater threats than ever before to American warships.
Adm. John Richardson said there are “no limits” on the types of warships the U.S. Navy could potentially operate in the region, despite China’s growing military capabilities.
The Navy has sent warships through the strategic waterway that divides China and Tawain three times in 2018 as part of its increased operational tempo in the region. However, the Navy hasn’t sent a carrier through the straits in a decade, Reuters reported.
In the ensuing years, China has substantially improved its anti-ship ballistic and cruise missile capabilities, as well as its own naval and air forces.
Nevertheless, Richardson said the U.S. Navy would not be deterred from operating in what are international waters.
“We don’t really see any kind of limitation on whatever type of ship could pass through those waters,” Admiral John Richardson told reporters in Tokyo, when asked if more advanced Chinese weapons posed a risk that was too great.
“We see the Taiwan Strait as another [stretch of] international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” he added.
U.S. carriers are the pride of the Navy. With onboard compliments of about 80 aircraft and 5,000 sailors and Marines, they are the primary means of Washington’s power projection. That said, in recent years, some defense analysts have begun questioning the future of carriers as improvements in ballistic and hypersonic missiles by near-peer competitor nations evolve.
Richardson’s comments come after Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed earlier this month to use force to reunify the mainland and Taiwan if necessary — even if the U.S. were to intervene.
In October he ordered the military region responsible for monitoriing Taiwan and the South China Sea to “prepare for war.”
Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, meanwhile, has called on the international community to defend the island democracy against Chinese aggression.