Report: Chinese military able to operate far afield

China's military is developing capabilities to conduct “new historic missions” far beyond the communist country’s borders, according to an annual Pentagon report to Congress.

Described as “military operations other than war,” the missions include counter-piracy and counterterrorism operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, U.N. peacekeeping, protecting sea lanes and protecting space-based assets, the report states.

For example, the People’s Liberation Army in December deployed its 10th task force to the Gulf of Aden to support international counter-piracy efforts.

David Helvey, acting deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia and Asia Pacific security affairs, said the missions present the U.S. with opportunities for partnership.

“We see an opportunity to be able to work with China as they’re adapting to these new missions,” he said. “As China has greater capacity and capability to operate at distances from China, it has a responsibility also to uphold international norms and rules and to support the international community’s interests in peace and stability.”

“What we’d like to be able to do is have a conversation with China and China's military on how we can build the type of cooperative capacity where we can work together and in support of common objectives,” Mr. Helvey said. “Obviously, we have concerns about China’s activities that would run counter towards the trends of greater cooperation, but that’s something we will continue to monitor and talk to them about.”

The report estimates China’s defense budget as $106 billion in 2011, an 11.2 percent increase from the year before. The report notes that the budget could be as high as $180 billion.

Mr. Helvey said there could be associated defense spending not included in China’s reported budget, such as research and development, nuclear force modernization, foreign acquisitions of weapons systems, and local contributions to local military forces.

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