China is engaged in a major military buildup aimed at ending the total domination of the western Pacific that the US has enjoyed since the end of World War II, the Wall Street Journal finds. Pentagon officials, who publicly decline to describe China as a threat, say the number of potential flashpoints in the region is growing and China is eying American allies in the region and flexing its muscles—at the very least looking to force US warships to keep their distance from its shores. "You can't say China's a threat," says an expert of America's refusal to acknowledge Beijing's growing might. "You can't say China's a competitor."
The US is building the first of a new class of its long-dominant aircraft carriers, but China may already have a countermeasure in the form of a new missile capable of hitting the deck of a carrier up to 1,700 miles away. A single such strike could kill more American servicemen than died in the Iraq war, leading some military officials to say it's time for the US to rethink its reliance on aircraft carriers. "The (USS) Gerald R. Ford is just the first of her class," wrote a Navy captain last year. "She should also be the last." Click for a preview of a slimmed-down Pentagon facing big budget cuts. (Read more aircraft carrier stories.)