On Sunday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley accused the Chinese military of being more “aggressive” in the Asia Pacific region.
“The message is the Chinese military, in the air and at sea, have become significantly more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region,” Milley told reporters while on his way to Asia.
Milley said the Chinese military had stepped up its “dangerous” intercepts of aircraft against the US and its allies.
Missing from Milley’s comments is the context that the US and its allies have significantly stepped up their military presence in sensitive waters near China in recent years.
According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), US military activity against China has “strengthened in terms of the frequency and intensity” since 2009. In 2021, the think tank says there was a “sharp rise” in US military activity in the South China Sea compared with 2020.
In 2020, the US flew nearly 1,000 reconnaissance sorties over the South China Sea, according to the SCSPI. In 2021, the number of US sorties over the disputed waters increased to around 1,200. The US has also stepped up the deployment of aircraft carriers and other warships in the region.
Milley recently ordered a review of all US military encounters with the Chinese military over the past five years. Pentagon officials said he ordered the review in light of escalating encounters between the two militaries in the South China Sea.