Pentagon Warns That China Is Adding Missiles and Building Capacity to Fight Abroad

From News Services
Saturday, May 26, 2007

China is modernizing its military in ways that give it options for launching surprise attacks, potentially on targets far from its borders, the Pentagon said yesterday.

The Chinese are acquiring better missiles, submarines and aircraft and should more fully explain the purpose of their military buildup, the Defense Department said in an annual report to Congress.

The Pentagon said China's short-term focus remains the Taiwan Straits, where the nation continues to position more short-range ballistic missiles. By October, China had increased its force of mobile short-range missiles based in garrisons opposite Taiwan to 900, the report said, an increase of at least 14 percent. In late 2005, between 710 and 790 missiles were based there, according to the Pentagon.

But more broadly, the Defense Department concluded, Beijing is pursuing a strategy that appears designed to give it a capability to fight wars farther from its shores and to thwart any U.S. advances.

"The People's Liberation Army is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts against high-tech adversaries," the report said.

Referring to a January test in which China shot down one of its own satellites with a missile, the report said the nation's capability "poses dangers to human space flight and puts at risk the assets of all space-faring nations."

New missile units at various locations in China could be used for crises not involving Taiwan, the report said, and advances in the Chinese air force would allow extended air operations over the South China Sea.

A prominent theme in the Pentagon report is a perceived lack of transparency in Chinese military activities and plans. As it has in the past, the Pentagon said China's true defense spending is two to three times the publicly announced defense budget, which this year was put at the equivalent of $45 billion. The Pentagon report said actual defense spending, including from sources other than the defense budget, is $85 billion to $125 billion.

In a section titled "Is China Developing a Preemptive Strategy?" the report cites the People's Liberation Army's acquisition of long-endurance submarines, unmanned combat aircraft, additional precision-guided air-to-ground missiles and long-distance military communications systems.

Chinese military training that focuses on no-notice, long-range airstrikes "could also indicate planning for preemptive military options in advance of regional crises," the report said.

Attempting to capture the essence of China's strategy, the report quoted the former supreme leader Deng Xiaoping's guidance, known as the 24-character maxim, which says in part, "hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile."

"It suggests both a short-term desire to play down China's capabilities and avoid confrontation, and a long-term strategy to build up China's power to maximize options for the future," the Pentagon report said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return messages yesterday seeking comment. China has reacted angrily to previous Pentagon reports and has insisted that its multibillion-dollar military buildup is defensive.

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