“China has advantages in the “gray zone,” she said. “As long as China builds up its military forces, but doesn’t employ those forces, the US is not likely to use military force.”
US Adm. Phillip Davidson, nominated to head the US Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation last month, “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”
‘Small steps’ in a larger plan
Experts say Beijing has no intention of backing off any time soon.
“South China Sea exercises are inevitable, though the precise timing may depend on the extent to which Beijing assesses that it needs to deter counter-claimant activities and freedom of navigation operations by the US and its allies,” Grossman said.
Exercises around the South China Sea islands are “small steps that incrementally change the status quo in China’s favor without provoking a military response from the United States,” said Glaser.
But they still give Washington plenty to worry about.
“We know they have runways, they have cannons, they have — everything in there is military. And it’s really pretty scary,” Republican US Sen. James Inhofe said at Adm. Davidson’s confirmation hearing.