Paratroopers of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army … [+]
Master Sgt. Richard Ebensberger
The U.S. Army is rehearsing for a dangerous but potentially decisive role in a possible war between the United States and China.
Army paratroopers have practiced flying long distance then jumping onto China’s island outposts in the disputed waters of the China Seas. Seizing outposts—and the strategic airstrips they host—could give U.S. forces new bases from which to strike back against the Chinese.
But the Chinese military scoffed at the idea. “The assumption that U.S. troops could capture China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea is no more than media speculation,” Xu Hailin wrote in Global Times, an official mouthpiece of the People’s Liberation Army.
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That’s untrue. The Pentagon actively is preparing for just such a contingency. Back in July, 350 paratroopers from the Army’s 25th Infantry Division flew in Air Force C-17 transports from Alaska to Guam and practiced dropping onto, and capturing, a simulated enemy airfield.
American troops landing on a Chinese island would represent a serious act of aggression and a major escalation of any conflict, Xu posited. “If the U.S. military really reaches out to capture China’s islands and reefs, it will declare the start of a total war with China.”
In fact, China since 2013 has built many of its 27 outposts on islands that other countries claim. In other words, the outposts are Chinese. The islands aren’t.
Chinese troops patrol an island in the China Seas.
People’s Liberation Army
And to be clear, it’s unlikely that the United States would stage island-takeovers unilaterally and unprovoked. Indeed, for the better part of a decade, China has been the aggressor in the China Seas—occupying disputed islands, attacking other countries’ fishing fleets and invading the territorial waters of rival states in order to strip them of resources.
If U.S. Army paratroops are jumping onto Fiery Reef or some other PLA outpost, it’s probably because Beijing finally pushed too far into the territories of U.S. allies or finally backed up its illegal claim to the China Seas by attacking foreign forces patrolling international waters.
In any event, Xu vowed that an American assault on a Chinese outpost would invite a devastating response. “The U.S. troops will have to face an all-out counterattack from the People’s Liberation Army and will certainly pay a heavy price for their reckless decisions,” Xu wrote. “After all, the PLA faces no rivals within the first island chain.”