New York Times


China Expands Military Buildup - Pentagon

May 28, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China expanded its aggressive military buildup last year with more sophisticated missiles, satellite-disrupting lasers and underground facilities, all aimed at winning a possible conflict with Taiwan and exerting power, according to a Pentagon report.

Beijing has more than 500 short-range ballistic missiles, some with improved guidance systems, opposite Taiwan and its defense spending of $50 billion to $70 billion is third behind the United States and Russia, the report released on Friday said.

The report, an annual assessment of China's capabilities submitted to the U.S. Congress, reflects the Pentagon's profound concern over Beijing's far-reaching military transformation and the possibility China may one day become America's main adversary.U.S.-China ties as the best ever and is among a group of U.S. officials and experts who say the war on terrorism has given Beijing and Washington common ground for cooperation.

China's "determined focus on preparing for conflict in the Taiwan Strait raises serious doubts over Beijing's declared policy of seeking peaceful reunification (with Taipei) under the 'one country, two systems' model," said a senior Defense Department official who briefed reporters on the new study.Taiwan, China is pursuing "coercive steps" and "creating an inherently less stable situation," the official said.

Influenced by lessons learned from the U.S.-led Iraq war, the Chinese army is rethinking assumptions about the value of long-range precision strikes, independent of ground forces, in any Taiwan conflict, the report said.


Other "lessons" affecting army thinking include the integration of psychological operations, and air and rapid ground operations designed to target enemy leadership, its ability to communicate and its will to fight, the report said.

The war reinforced China's decision to speed acquisition of improved information technology and weapons mobility, it said.

The senior Pentagon official acknowledged China's near-term focus is Taiwan, where the re-election of President Chen Shui-bian has heightened Beijing's fears that the self-governing island may declare independence. But "there is something much broader and more fundamental going on here," he said.

China is pursuing a "comprehensive, well-planned, well-executed transformation" of all sectors -- including weapons, tactics, doctrine and training -- and could be a world class military force in 10 to 15 years, the official said.

This is coupled with China's growing economic power, increasingly confident role in world affairs and expanded involvement with other Asian militaries, the report noted.

Since the 1991 Gulf War China expanded civil and military underground facilities to protect command centers and missile facilities, the report said.

Beijing is advancing its military space capabilities "across the board" with two new remote-sensing satellites, advanced imagery, and electronic intelligence reconnaissance satellites, the report said.

China continues to enhance its satellite tracking and identification network and probably can use low-energy lasers to "blind" the sensors of low-Earth-orbiting satellites.

Chinese arms buys were up 7 percent in 2003 with major purchases from Russia of 24 Su-30 fighter aircraft for $1 billion and SA-20 surface to air missile systems for $500 million.