A top US commander has warned Americans are "not fully conscious" of China's military threat, amid reports the country now has the biggest navy in the world.
Americans are downplaying the severity of China's military capabilities, according to the commander.
Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command says the country does not understand China's potential to attack the US with a nuclear weapon.
“I get apprehensive that we are not fully conscious as a nation of the threats that we face. China now has the capability … to directly threaten our homeland from a ballistic missile submarine. That’s a pretty watershed moment," he said on Monday.
This comes following the release of Pentagon's annual report to congress, which highlighted the communist nation's military power, reports Stripes.
In the report it was revealed China now has the largest navy in the world.
The report also stated the country plans to grow its nuclear weapons arsenal, and already has an estimated "below 200" number of nuclear warheads.
“Over the next decade, China will expand and diversify its nuclear forces, likely at least doubling its nuclear warhead stockpile,” according to the 200-page report.
However, Richard believes the US is unprepared for a possible attack.
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Comparing the current climate to the Cold War, he told reporters at the Pentagon: "So we knew there was a threat to us that might require us to respond strategically. We don’t even think about that anymore. We take strategic deterrence for granted in a lot of cases.
"Not acknowledging the fact that we have never had a nuclear attack on the nation and haven’t had a great-power war in 70 years was not just some accidental fate in history … It was a lot of hard work by a lot of people to maintain systems ready to go, so that we deterred that from happening.”
According to the National Defence Strategy, main concerns for the US military are China's economic policies as well as the country's militarisation of the South China Sea.
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Alongside this, Richard raised his concern over China's plan to increase nuclear capabilities, reports Stripes.
He said this was "increasingly inconsistent with a stated No First Use policy.”
“It’s not my place to judge whether they intend to honour that or not. What I can tell you is that they certainly have the capabilities to execute any number of deterrent or employment strategies that are seemingly inconsistent with a No First Use policy,” he added.
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