China’s military had already threatened to “sink two aircraft carriers” of the US’ when it activated the ballistic missiles. Rear Admiral Lou Yuan warned beforehand that China’s new and highly capable DF-26 anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were more than capable of hitting US carriers, despite them being at the centre of a ‘bubble’ of defensive escorts. He said: “What the United States fears the most is taking casualties.”
He said the loss of one super carrier would cost the US the lives of 5000 service men and women. Sinking two would double that toll.
“We’ll see how frightened America is.”
He added that China should “use its strength to attack the enemy’s shortcomings. Attack wherever the enemy is afraid of being hit. Wherever the enemy is weak.”
This warning came in December 2018.
The Chinese state-controlled newspaper – The Global Times – said the country’s newest warheads were being deployed a month later into positions best suited at striking vessels in the East and South China Sea.
The announcement of the deployment came just days after a US warship passed through the Taiwan Strait and close to the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands) — claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan — to assert the international rules of the sea which govern rights of free passage.
Taiwan has been at the centre of political disputes between China and the US, as Beijing aims to assert control over the Asian territory.
The Global Times said in January 2019: “The timing of the report sparked discussions among Chinese military observers online, as it came after the USS McCambell, a US guided-missile destroyer, trespassed into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands on Monday without permission from the Chinese government.”
The Chinese government mouthpiece continued: “The DF-26 is China’s new generation of intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of targeting medium and large ships at sea.
READ MORE: South China Sea: World warned ‘China and US planning for conflict’
Hu Bo, director of the Centre for Maritime Strategy Studies at Peking University, said that the deployment of US vessels was aimed at stopping China from taking advantage of a “power vacuum”.
Speaking in 2017, he also warned there was a risk that such incidents could result in a miscalculation and escalate into military conflict.
He added: “This kind of provocative behaviour was totally driven by political needs aimed at showing force and demonstrating strength, but that can become an accident.”
He also said that there could be parties with the US military aiming to create a small-scale and “controllable” conflict with their Chinese counterparts.
Hu Bo concluded: “However, how can you predict and control the consequences of a war?”