Courtesy: The New York Times
By Thom Shanker
March 26, 2009
China is seeking technology and weapons to disrupt the traditional advantages of American forces, and secrecy surrounding its military creates the potential for miscalculation on both sides, according to a Pentagon study released Wednesday.
The annual report from the Defense Department to Congress, “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009,” catalogs efforts by China to supply its armed forces with weapons that can be used to intimidate and attack Taiwan and blunt the superiority of American naval and air power, at least near its territory.
“We have advocated time and again for more dialogue and transparency in our dealings with the Chinese government and military, all in an effort to reduce suspicions on both sides,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.
He said the report should be read as calling “for deeper, broader, more high-level contacts with the Chinese.”
Military-to-military relations between the United States and China have tended to crest and then fall over recent years, with ties having just recovered from Beijing’s outrage over a decision last autumn by Washington to sell Taiwan more than $6 billion worth of advanced weapons.
But even that resumption of military-to-military talks was threatened this month after Chinese vessels shadowed and harassed an American surveillance ship in international waters of the South China Sea.
The report describes how China’s military modernization has continued over the past year, with a particular focus on Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. China has built up short-range missiles across from Taiwan, even though the report concludes that relations between the two have relaxed over the past year.
Even so, the study said China could not deploy and sustain even small military units far beyond its borders before 2015. Further, China would not be able to deploy and sustain large forces in combat operations far from China until well into the following decade, the report states.
Instead, the Chinese military appears to have embarked on modernization programs that would allow it to fight and win short conflicts fought with new weapons along its periphery.
To blunt traditional advantages of the United States, China has invested in new technologies for cyber- and space warfare, in addition to sustaining and modernizing its nuclear arsenal, the report said. The Chinese military also is expanding and improving its fleet of submarines, and hopes to build a number of new aircraft carriers, the report said.
The report does single out acts by the Chinese military to participate in international relief and rescue missions. Between 2002 and 2007, the People’s Liberation Army joined at least 14 search-and-rescue missions at sea, and was involved in 10 emergency relief missions in 14 countries.
Between 2003 and 2007, China also sold nearly $7 billion worth of conventional weapons around the world, mostly to Pakistan, the report said.
Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement on Wednesday that expressed concern at “some of the continuing trends and ambiguities regarding China’s military modernization, including China’s missile buildup across from Taiwan and the steady increase of China’s power projection capabilities.”
He said that “China’s military budget continues a trend of double-digit increases and questions remain about China’s strategic intentions.”