China Spends Up Big On Military
The Pentagon believes China has more than 500 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, a number that is growing by about 75 a year, a senior Defense Department official said Friday.
The missiles are become more accurate and lethal as well, and China's pace of deploying the missiles has surprised the Pentagon.
"We have to some degree underestimated their intentions to produce and deploy the missiles," the official said.
Five years ago the Pentagon believed China was deploying 25 a year, then raised that estimate to 50 a year, and has boosted it again to 75. Getting an accurate count of the missiles is difficult because they are mobile.
"Every time we come up with an estimate ... they have met or exceeded it. I don't want to exaggerate our (inaccuracy), but they have never failed to disappoint us in that regard ."
The official said it is not just the numbers of missiles that are deployed that are a concern. It is where they are deployed and what kind of missiles they are, and the national intent behind them.
"If you are willing to devote those resources (to the project) it's a decision made at a very high level," the official said. "This buildup across the Taiwan Strait ... is not creating a more stable situation. It is creating an inherently less stable situation."
He said the United States has delivered that message to Beijing repeatedly, laying the responsibility for the U.S. policy of arming and defending Taiwan at the Chinese government's feet.
"As far as we are concerned, the problem in the first instance is caused by China," he said.
The findings are included in the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on China's military power, which was delivered to Capitol Hill Thursday. Congress is in the throes of considering the Pentagon's $420 billion defense budget for 2005, the bulk of which is for traditional weapons systems designed to counter a threat like the one ascribed to China in the report.
China is not limiting its growth to short-range missiles aimed at Taiwan. The Chinese military is in the midst of a multi-decade modernization and transformation across the board.
"The breadth of that transformation is of note," said the official. "There are areas they could choose to ignore ... but we don't see any indication of that. It is comprehensive, well planned and well executed."
The transformation program would create in China a "first-rate military force over a reasonable time frame, about 10 to 15 years," the official said.
China's intentions for military power apparently extend beyond reuniting with Taiwan, by force if necessary.
"I wouldn't necessarily put things exclusively in context of Taiwan. There's something much broader and much more fundamental here," the official said.
Those aspirations are reflected in a dramatically larger defense budget for China.
China announced in March 2004 a real increase of 11.6 percent in its budget, adding $2.6 billion to bring the total to $25 billion. The Pentagon argues, however, that number dramatically understates China's total defense spending. It does not include weapons research and foreign weapon purchases. Last year those categories boosted spending to between $50 billion and $70 billion to China's defense budget, the Pentagon estimates, making it the third-largest military budget in the world, overtaking Japan and coming after the United States and Russia.
A large part of China's transformation comes from its appetite for buying foreign military equipment, a hunger fed by China's booming economy.
"It's very important to note the basis of t his economy is allowing it to go out and buy whatever it needs to buy," The official said.
He contrasted that with the former Soviet Union, which had the appetite but not the means.
China's high-tech purchases are limited by a European arms embargo imposed after its 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square. The European Union considered and then, under intense political pressure, rejected lifting the embargo in mid-April.
"We routinely made it known we believe the arms embargo should remain in effect. If they lift the embargo, the net effect is China will be in a position to glean ... the dream of technology and exponential benefits."
Even so, China has a major arms-trading partner in Russia and the former Soviet states. Since 1991, China has negotiated to buy some $20 billion in arms and actually received about $12 billion, according to the report. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are the major suppliers.
China has bought Su-27 and Su-30 fighters; AA-12 air-to-air missiles; SA-10, SA-15 and SA-20 surface-to-air missiles; Novator Alpha anti-ship cruise missiles; KILO submarines, Sovremennyy destroyers and associated weapons. Last year alone, China spent $1 billion on 24 advanced Russian fighter aircraft.
Space technology is one area where there has been leakage. Because much of the technology is dual use -- that is, it has some civilian applications -- China has been able to obtain satellite technology, particularly in the area of communications.
Beijing's ambitions extend to space. Launching a manned aircraft last October was just the beginning, the official said.
"We are going to see that program play out strongly," the official said. "They are not going for the prestige ... but for the capabilities."
China is believed to have developed "parasitic microsatellites" that can attach to other nation's satellites and either put them out of commission or tap into the data they are collecting or transmitting.
China is also believed to be developing lasers, one of which may be aimed at "dazzling" overhead satellites to blind them. The United States conducted a failed experimented with just such a laser several years ago.
"China's current level of interest in laser technology suggests that it is reasonable to assume Beijing eventually could develop a weapon to destroy satellites," the report states.
China's modernization is driven in large part by U.S.-led wars over the last 15 years -- first taking note of the efficacy of air power against massive ground forces in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and then the Kosovo war. America's reliance on ground forces in the recent war in Iraq, however, apparently has caused China to shift its thinking on that subject as well, particularly as it relates to a possible offensive against Taiwan, the report states.
"The speed of coalition ground force advances and the role of special forces in (Operation Iraqi Freedom) have caused (People's Liberation Army) theorists to rethink their assumptions about the value of long-range precision strikes, independent of ground forces, in any Taiwan conflict scenario," the report states.
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