A few days ago, a small group of fishermen were working in the shallow waters of the south Indian Ocean in what was once a pristine sea, just outside of Bali, Indonesia.
But the waters of Bikini Atoll, the island the fishermen had called home, had changed drastically.
On one side of the island, the waves were breaking like never before.
On the other, the reef was being destroyed.
As the fishermen were struggling to make their way back to the mainland, the Indonesian navy’s flagship, the USS Lassen, launched an all-out assault on the area, which had been under lockdown for weeks.
As part of a wider operation, the Lassens are carrying out surveillance operations on a massive, underwater surveillance network to help monitor any possible potential threats to the marine environment.
The Lasses are the only fleet of such surveillance vessels in the world.
It is a huge gamble.
This is the only world in which the United States and its allies are officially conducting military operations, and this is where we are building the largest and most sophisticated submarine fleet ever built.
But this is the world we are creating, and the stakes are very high.
In the next few days, the world will watch as the US Navy conducts an unprecedented aerial campaign of naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii, the Philippines, and a US air base in Guam.
For the first time in decades, the US is openly committing itself to launching a full-scale naval war on China, a nation that has been the target of several US missile attacks.
China has repeatedly denied US claims of a military campaign against it.
US warships are currently conducting a series of surveillance and air-to-air drills in the area that are set to continue until the end of the year.
It’s a show of force, and it’s part of an overall strategy that has seen the US military conduct a series atolls and coastal defences off the coasts of several Southeast Asian nations, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
This year, the United Kingdom and Australia also undertook similar operations.
This unprecedented militarisation of our global ocean has the potential to destabilise our own waters.
The United States has already committed the vast majority of its nuclear arsenal to sea-based defences in the Pacific, where the threat of nuclear war is the greatest.
In this new war, the risk of a nuclear strike is higher than it’s ever been in recent years.
The US has already deployed three nuclear weapons in Asia, and has the capability to deploy up to 40 in the next decade.
This could all change in just a few years.
“The US Navy has the most powerful air-launched missiles on the planet,” says Jeremy Shapiro, a naval officer and professor at the Naval War College.
“I don’t think anyone has ever had to use this type of force before.”
The LASSEN and other American warships are part of the Navy’s new “Belt and Road Initiative”, a strategy to secure the entire Pacific, and China is one of the few countries in the region that does not fully recognise the US.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to unleash nuclear war on Chinese territory if Beijing does not “pay us more” for its territorial claims.
A military campaign has been under way for months, but the scale of the US operation, and its escalation, is unprecedented.
Last month, the president announced that the USS John S McCain would arrive in the western Pacific in mid-March to conduct a “pivot to Asia” and deploy warships, aircraft, and missiles.
The ships are equipped with advanced electronic warfare systems and radar, and they are armed with a variety of weapons, including cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles.
These missiles can destroy submarines, destroy air defence batteries, and can even attack ships on the surface.
It has been widely reported that China has already moved several strategic ships into the area.
This would constitute a major escalation of US military activity in the South China Sea, and would likely prompt China to retaliate.
As this was being announced, the Trump administration had already ordered a major US naval base on Guam to be expanded, to accommodate US troops and other allies.
The USS John C Stennis has already arrived in the US, and is currently patrolling the waters between the US and South Korea.
“This is just a first step,” says Shapiro.
“It’s a very large, very expensive exercise, and will be in the context of a bigger exercise in the coming months.
But what we’re seeing now is a real opportunity to show the world that we have the capacity to conduct the sort of naval warfare that’s necessary to defend ourselves.”
In fact, the potential for a nuclear attack by the US was highlighted in February by the first-ever nuclear test of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
This was the first nuclear test carried out by a US aircraft carrier in decades.
This test, which occurred off the island of Subic Bay, the former capital of the Philippines and now a staging area