The US Navy is ready to come to Taiwan’s aid if it is ordered to do so, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Samuel Paparo told a US television news program in a segment about the state of the navy in the face of China’s rapid military expansion.
“It’s a decision of the president of the United States and a decision of the Congress,” he told 60 Minutes reporter Norah O’Donnell in the 27-minute segment that aired on CBS on Sunday.
“But the bulk of the United States Navy will be deployed rapidly to the Western Pacific to come to the aid of Taiwan if the order comes to aid Taiwan in thwarting [a Chinese] invasion,” he said.
Photo: Screen grab from CBS “60 Minutes”
The navy is ready, but “I’ll never admit to being ready enough,” he added.
The interview took place last month on the aircraft carrier the USS Nimitz deployed near Guam.
The US Pacific Fleet accounts for about 60 percent of the entire US Navy.
One-third of the US Navy is deployed at all times, meaning there are about 100 of 300 ships at sea, Paparo said.
Nevertheless, its fleet is already outnumbered by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, whose ships have increased to about 350 from only 37 in the early 2000s, he said.
“We call it the ‘Decade of Concern,’” he said. “We’ve seen a 10-fold increase in the size of the [PLA] Navy.”
However, the PLA is still working to catch up in terms of powerful aircraft carriers, with only two diesel-fueled versions in operation compared with the US’ 11 nuclear-powered vessels, the report said.
Asked if the numbers matter, Paparo said that “quantity has a quality all its own.”
“I’m not comfortable with the trajectory,” he added.
US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday disagreed that the US Navy is being outpaced by China, saying it is still in a position to prevail.
“But that’s not blind confidence,” he told O’Donnell. “We are concerned with the trajectory that China’s on, with China’s behavior, but we are in a good position right now.”
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