During a major Chinese military airshow this week in which China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) showcased a number of advanced weapons and aircraft, a senior Chinese military leader issued a veiled challenge that if the U.S is not scared of China’s advanced weapons “let us meet in the sky.”
According to the South China Morning Post, during China’s Zhuhai military airshow on Wednesday Wang Wei, the Deputy Air Force commander of the People’s Liberation Army, referenced comments about China that U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall made in August. In an interview with Defense News, Kendall said the focus of the Air Force should be to stay ahead of China’s military technological developments to continue to field the types of weapons that “scare China.”
“Recently a counterpart of mine who is from a major country claimed that he wants to scare China,” Wang said, in an apparent reference to Kendall’s remarks.
“The Chinese navy is capable and confident to ensure national security and defend integrity, as well as make a contribution to world peace,” Wang added said. “I can only say, if they are not scared, let us meet in the sky.”
Wang’s threatening remarks extended not just from his own branch, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), but also the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
According to the South China Morning Post, the Zhuhai Airshow showcased advanced Chinese stealth fighter jets fitted with domestically produced engines. According to the PLA’s website, the airshow also included appearances of J-20 stealth fighter jet.
Wang’s posturing comes as U.S. military forces have increasingly asserted their navigational rights in areas of the Pacific, even as China has sought to assert territorial claims throughout the region. China, in particular, has claimed a wide area of the South China Sea as its own, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands. China has also placed increasing pressure on the island of Taiwan, which governs itself as an independent nation but which China claims as its own territory.
In January, Chinese bombers and fighter jets also appeared to practice carrying out attack runs in the direction of a U.S. carrier group traveling through the South China Sea.
In his August interview with Defense News, Kendall said, “I’ve been obsessed, if you will, with China for quite a long time now — and its military modernization, what that implies for the US and for security.” Since taking office as the Air Force secretary, Kendall said, “I’ve gotten back up to speed on since I came back was our intelligence on what the Chinese are doing with their modernization programs. They’re moving faster than I might have anticipated. So, we have a lot of work to do.”
In another set of recent remarks, Kendall made new calls for the Air Force to retire its aging aircraft and equipment “that we no longer need and that do not intimidate China.”