China

Growing Risk Of Accidental Conflict Between West And China, Experts Warn

The Defence Select Committee heard how the South China Sea could become a hotspot as China's military ambitions grow.

MPs have been warned of a growing risk of accidental conflict between the West and China.

Experts giving evidence to the Defence Select Committee said the South China Sea could become a flashpoint as the country's military ambition grows.

However, China's forces are almost entirely based in China itself, not around the world like US or Russian military assets.

"As we start moving towards the high end of the kinetic warfare spectrum, then the absolute capacity to project power, I would say, it is firmly within the 400 [or] 500 nautical miles of the Chinese coast based towards the East China Sea and the South China Sea – and that includes the Strait of Taiwan," Dr Alessio Patalano, from the Department of War Studies at King's College London, said.

Past the Strait of Taiwan, Dr Patalano said there is a "considerable lack of capacity to sustain high-intensity warfare".

China is stretching its reach, building new military bases in disputed parts of the South China Sea.

These bases are being built in waters that are largely accepted as international waters despite China's sovereignty claims.

South China Sea in 2015
China is building new military bases in disputed parts of the South China Sea (Picture: US Army).

Charles Parton, Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said: "We're just seeing an increasing sort of aggressive stance, increasing national propaganda about it.

"I think [this] makes the risk of an incident – a collision between ships, or like [in] 2001, when two aircraft collided – just a little bit more likely."

Mr Parton also added that this could also mean it may be "a little bit more difficult" to "de-escalate" tensions.

Britain's largest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is expected to visit the region on her first operational deployment this year as part of a Carrier Strike Group alongside both British and American escorts.

She will visit the Indo-Pacific region later this year to enhance UK-Japan defence cooperation.