By Andrew Gray
Monday, March 3, 2008; 6:41 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China is developing weapons that would disable its enemies' space technology such as satellites in a conflict, the Pentagon said in a report released on Monday.
The report also said "numerous" intrusions into computer networks around the world, including some owned by the U.S. government, in the past year seem to have originated in China.
The assessments feature in an annual report on China's military power by the Pentagon for the U.S. Congress. Beijing routinely criticizes the report, saying it unfairly portrays China as a military threat when it is committed to peace.
David Sedney, a top Pentagon China specialist, said there was no call for U.S. alarm over China but repeated a frequent U.S. complaint that Beijing has not made clear the reasons for its rapid military modernization and spending growth.
"I think the biggest thing for people to be concerned about really is the fact that we don't have that kind of strategic understanding of the Chinese intentions," said Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.
"That leads to uncertainty," he said, briefing journalists at the Pentagon on the latest report.
China has posted a string of double-digit percentage rises in military spending in the past decade and many analysts say Beijing understates the amount it spends.
However, even the highest estimates of the true figure are dwarfed by U.S. defense spending.
SPACE AND CYBERSPACE
Sedney said China's activities in both space and cyberspace were areas of concern.
"China is developing a multi-dimensional program to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by its potential adversaries during times of crisis or conflict," the report said.
The report said the Chinese People's Liberation Army had developed a range of weapons and jammers to prevent an enemy from using space-based systems such as satellites.
"The PLA is also exploring satellite jammers, kinetic energy weapons, high-powered lasers, high-powered microwave weapons, particle beam weapons, and electromagnetic pulse weapons for counterspace application," it said.
It noted that China destroyed a defunct weather satellite in a test in January 2007, even though the incident also was included in last year's report. U.S. officials repeatedly have raised the shootdown as an issue of great concern.
"We continue to ask the Chinese to sit down and talk to us about that test and they haven't," Sedney said.
The United States blew apart a defunct satellite of its own with a missile from a Navy ship last month. The Pentagon said that was done purely to prevent potential harm to people.
Under the heading "Cyberwarfare Capabilities," the report stated that intrusions apparently from China into computer networks used "many of the skills and capabilities that would also be required for computer network attack."
It said it was not clear if the intrusions were carried out or backed by the Chinese military but "developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with authoritative PLA writings on this subject."
Last March, China announced a 17.8 percent rise in military spending to 350.92 billion yuan, or about $45 billion, for 2007. The Pentagon report said the true figure could be between $97 billion and $139 billion.
The Bush administration last month requested $515.4 billion for the Pentagon in the next U.S. fiscal year. That figure does not include extra spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or nuclear weapons programs run by the Department of Energy.
The Pentagon report can be found at: http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/China_Military_Report_08.pdf
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)