Ben Hodges is the former commander of the US Army in Europe. Photo: Handout
Ben Hodges is the former commander of the US Army in Europe. Photo: Handout

It is “very likely” that the United States will be at war with China in the near future, likely in 15 years, according to a former commanding general of the US Army in Europe.

Retired Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges this week offered a reminder to European allies that they would have to do more to ensure their own defense in the face of a resurgent Russia, because the US would need to focus more attention on defending its interests in the Pacific Ocean to fend off a more assertive China, The Associated Press reported.

“The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat,” Hodges told a packed room at the Warsaw Security Forum, a two-day gathering of leaders and military and political experts from Central Europe.

“I think in 15 years – it’s not inevitable, but it is a very strong likelihood – that we will be at war with China.”

Hodges commanded the US Army in Europe from 2014 to 2017. He is now a strategic expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, DC.

Hodges later told reporters that a recent “near miss” between a US Navy destroyer and a Chinese warship in the South China Sea was only one of the signs foreshadowing “an increasingly tense relationship and increasing competition in all the different domains” between the two superpowers.

Destroyers with the US and Chinese navies nearly collided last month during a US “freedom of navigation” operation to snub Beijing’s steadfast territorial claims that cover most of the South China Sea.

China’s other irritants are happening in tandem, such as “constant stealing of technology” and gaining control of infrastructure by funding projects in Africa and Europe, according to Hodges.

He said China already owned “more than 10% of the ports in Europe.”

Beijing’s response so far to Hodge’s hostile remarks is from Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who called on the US to drop what he said a “Cold War mentality” at a forum held in Beijing

Wei, who met with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis last Friday at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, said military facilities were needed to protect Chinese interests in the South China Sea.

“The South China Sea situation is stabilizing, which proves that all countries can take care of their own affairs,” Wei said.

He also sought to assure neighboring countries that China had no interest in engaging in an arms race.

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