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Mr. Tkacik said a number of outside academics and researchers have been warning for years about apparent new advances in terminal guidance technologies for high-speed Chinese missiles that can re-enter the atmosphere and target moving naval ships at sea without the hypersonic speeds affecting their targeting.

“China is moving ahead across the full spectrum of new offensive military technologies and capabilities,” Mr. Tkacik said, noting that some defense intelligence officials understand the problem.

“But I think there are others in the intelligence community that either don’t think China is a real threat or worry that defending against new Chinese technologies might offend Beijing,” Mr. Tkacik said.

China, for its part, continues to insist that its military buildup is benign. One of China’s two most senior military officers was in Washington recently to outline the People’s Liberation Army’s position on war amid calls by U.S. military leaders for greater transparency.

“To deter and win wars remains the top priority of the armed forces, and the capability to win local wars in conditions of informati[oni]zation is vital to the capabilities for multiple military tasks,” said Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, in a speech Oct. 26 to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In addition to war-fighting, Chinese military forces will be called on to work domestically, Gen. Xu said, noting that the 2.4 million troops of the PLA will conduct counterterrorism, disaster relief, peacekeeping and “protection of rights and interests,” international relief, and “security and protection,” an apparent reference to putting down internal dissent, as took place in Tibet in 2008 and western Xinjiang province earlier this year.

Gen. Xu also blamed recent incidents of Chinese ships harassing U.S. surveillance ships on “intensive reconnaissance missions conducted by U.S. naval ships in China’s [Exclusive Economic Zone], which infringed upon Chinese interests.”

The Pentagon has said the incidents were “harassment” by Chinese vessels in international waters and led to the dispatch of U.S. warships in the South China Sea and off China’s northern coast.

Readiness group

A new military support group is warning that a lack of physical fitness, poor education and the problem of criminality, especially among the young, is undermining U.S. national security by limiting military recruitment for the all-volunteer armed services.

A report by Mission: Readiness, a bipartisan nonprofit organization led by senior retired military leaders, revealed that 75 percent of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 would be unable to enlist in the U.S. armed forces because they are physically unfit, have failed to graduate high school or have criminal records.

The group’s report will be released at a press conference scheduled for Thursday at the National Press Club, featuring Education Secretary Arne Duncan and several retired military leaders who regard the problem as a national-security threat.

The group is calling for more early learning programs to “ensure that more young people graduate, obey the law, and have the option of military service if they choose that path,” the group said in announcing the results of the report.

Those set to take part in the effort include Mr. Duncan, former NATO commander retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, retired Army Maj. Gen. James A. Kelley, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Douglass and retired Rear Adm. James Barnett.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. James W. Comstock, who is leading the initiative, told Inside the Ring that the report is not only disturbing, but also a call to action.

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