Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Published: May 24, 2006

WASHINGTON, May 23 — China's leadership has not satisfactorily explained its military expansion and goals, even as it modernizes its forces to be able to challenge foreign armed forces operating in the region, the Defense Department said in a report released Tuesday.

"China's leaders have yet to adequately explain the purposes or desired end-states of their military expansion," according to the 2006 report, "Military Power of the People's Republic of China." "Estimates place Chinese defense expenditure at two to three times officially disclosed figures."

The 50-page report, delivered annually to Congress, is at The report includes a list of new Chinese weaponry and describes among other things the modernization of China's ballistic missile force. But it balances its cautionary language about military competition with China with carefully chosen words expressing optimism for harmonious relations with Beijing.

In past years, the report has taken on a diplomatic life of its own, sparking an annual round of analysis and criticism from the United States that, in turn, has prompted an annual response of criticism and analysis from China.

The report comes as the Bush administration works to entice China into a partnership to halt the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

Peter W. Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said Tuesday that the report had been circulated and approved across the United States government and that it represented "a community view about the facts."

"The United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China," the report said. "U.S. policy encourages China to participate as a responsible international stakeholder by taking on a greater share of responsibility for the health and success of the global system from which China has derived great benefit."

The Chinese military, according to the report, has embarked on a long-term effort to change from a large army designed for wars of attrition on its home territory into "a more modern force capable of fighting short-duration, high-intensity conflicts against high-tech adversaries."

While acknowledging that China has only a limited ability to sustain military operations at great distances, the report also states that Chinese armed forces have the potential to compete with the United States by fielding "disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages."

What that means in the near term, the report added, is that China will continue its efforts to build up its forces across the strait from Taiwan, which Beijing considers a runaway province, even as it is "generating capabilities that could apply to other regional contingencies, such as conflicts over resources or territory."

China had by last year deployed 710 to 790 short-range ballistic missiles across from Taiwan, an increase from the estimated 650 to 730 missiles deployed a year before.

The report details trends in China's ability to deny other armed forces access across the region by a combination of strike aircraft, submarines and precision missiles. The report argues that those weapons "have the potential to pose credible threats to modern militaries operating in the region."

The expanding Chinese economy has resulted in that nation's becoming, in 2004, the world's second largest consumer and third largest importer of oil.

China has carefully sought and nurtured relationships with energy-producing nations in regions where the United States previously operated without competition from China.

"Several aspects of China's military development have surprised U.S. analysts," the report said, "including the pace and scope of its strategic forces modernization."

The term "strategic forces" applies to long-range nuclear weapons. China is modernizing its longer-range ballistic missiles by upgrading some systems and replacing others with mobile, quick-launch models, the report said.

The report is based on evidence that the Chinese are "at the beginning of some serious modernization of their overall strategic forces," said Mr. Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense.

Chinese officials have dismissed warnings about its military modernization, saying that China is pursuing national security interests and protecting its territory as any large nation would, and that its military constitutes no threat to American soil.

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