China blocks coastal waters, enlarges military

Pacific’s chief calls shadowy move ‘troubling’

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China’s “troubling” military buildup coincides with new efforts by Beijing to block the Navy from international waters near its coasts and field new missiles, submarines and cyberweapons, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told Congress on Tuesday.

NavyAdm. Robert F. Willard said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that China’s intentions behind its decades-long buildup remain hidden and are undermining stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The four-star admiral said the arms buildup is understandable because of China’s economic rise, but “the scope and pace of its modernization without clarity on China’s ultimate goals remains troubling.”

“For example, China continues to accelerate its offensive air and missile developments without corresponding public clarification about how these forces will be utilized,” he said.

Chinese officials, in meetings with their U.S. counterparts, have refused to explain the pace or goal of the arms buildup, defense officials have said.

Adm. Willard said Chinese weapons that pose concerns include a growing arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles, including anti-ship missiles and advanced radar-evading stealth combat aircraft.

Also, “China is pursuing counterspace and cyber capabilities that can be used to not only disrupt U.S. military operations, but also to threaten the space- and cyber-based information infrastructure that enables international communications and commerce,” he said.

“Absent clarification from China, its military modernization efforts hold significant implications for regional stability,” the admiral said, noting that states in Asia, along with the United States, are becoming alarmed over what he termed “new anti-access and area-denial weaponry.”

China’s government insists that the arms buildup is defensive but will not provide details on any of its most advanced weapons.

On Chinese cyber-attacks, Adm. Willard said, a “sizable percentage” of the large number of attempted computer intrusions detected daily come from China.

“We are defending our networks every day, not solely against Chinese intrusions, but against many intrusions that come from a whole host of global sources,” he said. “And I depend entirely, nearly, on cyberspace for the command and control of the broader Asia-Pacific, of our forces there.”

Chinese military statements indicate that the country would use cyberwarfare attacks against information systems and command-and-control networks in a conflict. “So there’s no doubt that there’s a need to be able to defend cyberspace,” he said.

China’s aggressiveness near its coasts also was singled out as increasing the potential for a miscalculation that could lead to confrontation.

Official Chinese statements and actions indicate growing encroachment by Beijing in “near seas” around China, posing “a direct challenge to accepted interpretations of international law and established international norms,” Adm. Willard said.

Adm. Willard was referring to China’s threats against Navy exercises in the Yellow Sea last year and earlier incidents of naval harassment against U.S. surveillance ships in the South China Sea.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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