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US Navy Superiority Called Into Question As China Now Has More Submarines

At a time when the readiness and capabilities of almost all branches of the military have come under question, the Chinese Navy has taken the lead and now has more diesel and nuclear-powered vessels than the U.S. Navy. Chinese naval deployments last longer, and the vessels continue to expand their geographical area of operation.

But according to U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, while China is now superior in terms of submarine quantity, the U.S. is still superior in terms of quality, Reuters reports.

“We know they are out experimenting and looking at operating and clearly want to be in this world of advanced submarines,” Mulloy said.

China’s quiet military buildup has garnered concerns from top U.S. defense officials, who have stepped up advocacy efforts for rapid technological development and a budget without the limits imposed by sequestration.

On Wednesday, Mulloy testified to the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee that China is building “fairly amazing submarines.” On the same day, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus penned an op-ed, in which he argued that now is not a good time to cut the budget, since “Quantity has a quality all its own. That means we must have a properly sized and balanced fleet.”

Meanwhile, China is becoming bolder in its naval activity. The Washington Free Beacon reported that Chinese officials have recently refused requests from the Obama administration to stop building on disputed islets in the South China Sea, which is causing significant tension with the Philippines and Vietnam. The outposts are stationed 600 miles from China, but just 200 miles from the Philippines. China claims over 90 percent of the South China Sea and is maintaining that its construction projects are well within its sovereign domain.

Still, despite the rebuff, the Pentagon is conducting joint military exercises with China. According to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Pool, “We have no announcement regarding changes to our military to military engagement strategy with China at this time.“

It is unclear whether the Chinese undersea fleet is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and though the U.S. military still believes that the answer is no, China is, in fact, building nuclear-capable submarines.

“If we have a sequestered budget, is this an acceptable level of risk?” Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt asked at the House Committee on Appropriations defense subcommittee on Thursday, in an attempt to determine whether the Navy is capable of operating under caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 while still dealing effectively with threats.

“We will go from risk to gamble,” Mabus responded. “It’s no longer a risk. It’s a gamble. When the size of the fleet goes down, you run out of assets, and the effects of not building ships today will impact the Navy in 10 and 20 years.”

“We have to start building,” Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert added. “There’s no slack. We have to fund [the budget].”

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