Secretary of the Navy says the US is not keeping up with the construction of warships in China


China’s navy has significant advantages over its American rival, including a larger fleet and greater shipbuilding capacity, as Beijing seeks to project its power across the oceans, the head of the US Navy said Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said that China is “consistently trying to violate the maritime sovereignty and economic well-being of other countries, including our allies in the South China Sea and elsewhere.” .”

“Now they have a larger fleet, so they are deploying this fleet around the world,” he said, adding that in response, Washington should modernize the US fleet.

“We really need a larger fleet, we need more ships in the future, more modern ships in the future in particular that can counter this threat,” he said.

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According to the Minister of the Navy, in the coming years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy could have up to 400 ships, up from the current 340.

Meanwhile, the US Navy has less than 300 ships.

According to the US Navy’s 2022 navigation plan released last summer, the Pentagon’s goal is to have 350 manned ships by 2045, still far short of China’s fleet forecast.

However, before that target is reached, the US fleet is expected to shrink as older ships are retired, according to a November report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Submarine Great Wall 236 of the PLA Navy participates in the naval parade on April 23, 2019.

Del Toro said on Tuesday that US navy yards cannot match China’s in terms of production. As with fleet size, it’s all about numbers.

“They have 13 shipyards, in some cases their shipyard has more capacity – one shipyard has more capacity than all of our shipyards combined. This poses a real threat,” he said.

Del Toro did not give details about these shipyards, but Chinese and Western reports say there are six large and two smaller shipyards in China building naval vessels.

According to an October report by Brent Sadler of the National Defense Center, seven shipyards in the US are producing large-draft large ships for the US Navy and Coast Guard.

But regardless of the number of shipyards, they need workers, and Del Toro says China has a numerical advantage here, mainly because it is free from restrictions, regulations and economic pressures that affect the US workforce.

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According to him, one of the big problems in the US is finding a skilled workforce.

“[W]When you have unemployment below 4%, it becomes a real problem whether you are trying to find workers for a restaurant or for a shipyard,” said the commander of the Navy.

He also said that China can do things that the US cannot.

“This is a communist country, they don’t have rules that they follow,” he said.

“They use slave labor to build their ships, right – we should never do business this way, but that’s what we’re facing, so it’s a significant advantage,” he said.

CNN has reached out to China’s Foreign Ministry for a response to del Toro’s allegations.

US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Dewey refuels at sea from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on October 11, 2018.

Del Toro did not provide details to support the slave labor allegation, and analysts have expressed doubt that Beijing would resort to such tactics.

“China has a very large labor pool and it doesn’t really make sense to use slave labor in a high-tech sector vital to their national security,” said Blake Herzinger, a research fellow and defense policy expert in the Indo-Pacific region. . American Enterprise Institute.

Herzinger said such comments by the US Navy Commander-in-Chief show that US attention is being directed in the wrong place, to the detriment of US capabilities.

“It seems, unfortunately, a common occurrence for the Navy leadership to throw stones at the real or imagined shortcomings of Chinese shipbuilding, instead of reckoning with US failures over two decades in conceptualizing, designing and building ships for its own fleet,” said Herzinger. .

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According to a November report from the US Congressional Research Service, the US Navy has taken steps to close the gap with China, including sending more of its fleet to the Pacific and using newer and more capable ships in Pacific roles.

And on Tuesday, Del Toro said the US retains one big advantage over China: “our people.”

“In many ways, our shipbuilders are better, so we have a more modern, more combat-ready and more lethal fleet than theirs,” he said.

Del Toro claimed that US military personnel are also better on their feet.

“They are preparing their people for combat, we are actually teaching our people to think,” he said.

“There is a fundamental difference in how we train our Marines, our sailors, our soldiers, our airmen and our space forces in this country, which gives us an inherent advantage over everything the Chinese have to offer.”

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