The annual Pentagon report, issued August 24, says Beijing is on track to achieve its goal of building a modern, regionally-focused military by 2020. China has nuclear weapons and delivery systems, the report points out, as well as a large army of 1.25 million troops.
Among Beijings most recent achievements, the document notes, is the first public testing in January of Chinas new generation stealth jet fighter, the anticipated launching of its first aircraft carrier (which happened in July), and the development of a missile capable of attacking U.S. aircraft carriers.
At the same time, the report underlines the limits of Beijings military reach. Aside from counter-piracy missions like the one the Chinese navy has been conducting since 2009 in the Gulf of Aden, the report says, Chinas Navy has little operational experience beyond regional waters. And it will still take several additional years for China to achieve a minimal level of combat capacity on an aircraft carrier.
All this is potentially destabilizing in the Pacific, said Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, at an August 24 news briefing. He was echoing a recurring complaint of the U.S. rulers, repeated in the report, about Beijings so-called lack of transparency. As if its any of Washingtons business how the sovereign government of Chinaa country that faced more than a century of colonial and imperialist domination until the 1949 revolutionchooses to organize its military defense.
The Pentagon report itself points out that Washingtons deployment in 1995 and 1996 of two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Strait near Chinawith accompanying submarines, battleships, and more than 100 combat aircraftunderscored to Beijing the potential challenge of U.S. military intervention and highlighted the importance of developing a modern navy.
The report also explains that approximately ninety percent of Chinas imports and exports [is] transiting by sea . China now imports over half of the oil it consumes, over 80 percent of which transits the Malacca Strait and South China Sea, regional waters dominated by the U.S. Navy.
In fact the very day the Defense Department report was released the U.S. Navy was participating in a nine-nation, 530,000-strong military exercise in South Korea, across the Yellow Sea from China. The North Korean government strongly denounced this display of force as an undisguised military threat.
Washington deepens ties with N. Zealand military
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