- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2008


The United States needs new weapon systems, including missile defenses and other advanced military capabilities, to deter and counter China‘s steady buildup of nuclear and conventional arms, according to a draft internal report by a State Department advisory board.

U.S. defense policy has stressed missile defenses against Iran and North Korea. The report, by the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), is the first to recommend such defenses against China, including technology in space.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, said Chinese strategy goes beyond building forces capable of retaking the island of Taiwan. China seeks to “break out” by projecting power beyond its region including sea lanes that carry energy resources for its modernization, the document said.

“Using superior U.S. military technical capacities, the United States should undertake the development of new weapons, sensors, communications, and other programs and tactics to convince China that it will not be able to overcome the U.S. militarily,” the report said.

Read the report by the ISAB Task Force on China’s Strategic Modernization (downloads PDF)

The draft report presents a tough assessment of Chinese strategic modernization that goes beyond many current government and private-sector analyses that say that China’s military modernization does not pose a major challenge to U.S. security interests.

For example, in an interview with The Washington Times in March, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden expressed professional “admiration” for China’s rapid and sophisticated buildup and said it is “not inevitable that they will be an enemy.” The report said that to reduce the chance of a miscalculation by China that could lead to a crisis or conflict, the United States “must take seriously China’s challenge to U.S. military superiority in the Asia-Pacific region. … China’s military modernization is proceeding at a rate … to be of concern even with the most benign interpretation of China’s motivation.”

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said in a statement that China is “naturally becoming stronger and more influential in world affairs” after 30 years of reform, but remains committed to peaceful development and a “foreign policy of peace.”

“China will not harm anyone or pose a threat to anyone. China’s development is opportunity, not threat. Any versions of China threat will continue to be proved fallacious,” he said.

Mr. Wang also said his government is “committed to the peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question and the peaceful reunification” of the island with the mainland.

The draft by the 17-member advisory board has not been officially released. A State Department official familiar with the report said it is in the late stages and could be completed in the next several weeks.

The official said the report’s stark assessment of China’s strategy and forces was in line with the board’s mandate to provide frank advice to the secretary of state from analysts outside government.

Brandon A. Buttrick, the ISAB executive director, said his office did not know when members would complete their review. “If the report is an unclassified report, it will be made available for public distribution as we have done with the previous ISAB reports when they are approved by the ISAB,” he said.

The board is headed by former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The task force that produced the report was led by Robert Joseph, a former undersecretary of state and specialist on nonproliferation. The task force included former Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat; Allison B. Fortier, a vice president for missile defense at Lockheed Martin; and William Van Cleave, emeritus professor for defense and security studies at Missouri State University.

Mr. Robb said he initially took part but dropped out because of time constraints “notwithstanding my interest in the topic.” He declined to comment further.

Read the report by the ISAB Task Force on China’s Strategic Modernization (downloads PDF)

Mr. Wolfowitz declined to be interviewed. Once the Bush administration’s chief theorist on the war on terror and a major policymaker on the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz previously held numerous senior posts dealing with Asian affairs at both the State Department and Pentagon. He stepped down as World Bank president amid ethics inquiries in June.

The draft report said China’s “major objective is to counter U.S. presence and U.S. military capabilities in East Asia through the acquisition of offensive capacities in critical functional areas that systematically exploit U.S. vulnerabilities.” It said the buildup involves capabilities for “asymmetric warfare,” such as space and computer weapons, that could help Chinese forces defeat a stronger U.S. military.

Among the areas of U.S. strategic vulnerability identified in the report are gaps in U.S. missile defenses; dependence on space for communications; the U.S. inability to use force against China except through aircraft carrier groups; and “fragile electronics and the Internet.” The report recommends that the United States acquire new offensive space and cyber warfare capabilities and missile defenses as well as “more robust sea- and space-based capabilities” to deter any crisis over Taiwan.

China currently has about 20 missiles capable of reaching the United States but is projected to have more than 100 nuclear missiles, some likely with multiple warheads, by 2015, the report said.

Among the key findings:

• Continued rapid economic growth of 10 percent a year is “vital” for China to continue to compete with the United States and achieve its main goals of regime survival and regional dominance.

• China’s industrial and defense espionage is aimed at obtaining advanced technology for economic and military modernization.

• The scale, scope and speed of China’s rise fundamentally impacts U.S. national security, yet the U.S. “possesses only a limited understanding of Chinese intentions, and how Beijing’s economic and military expansion affects these interests.”

• China’s military and civilian leaders are not always on the same page and that separation is a potential “focal point” for mitigating hostility. China’s civilian leaders understand Americans but the Chinese military suffers from “clear paranoia and misperceptions” about U.S. intentions.

• To avoid an “emerging creep” by China toward strategic nuclear coercion, “the United States will need to pursue new missile defense capabilities, including taking full advantage of space,” the report said.

On China’s expansion after centuries as a regional power, the ISAB report stated that: “In China’s view, Taiwan is the key to breakout: If China is to become a global power, the first step must include control of this island.” Taking over the island would allow China to control the seas near its coasts and to project power eastward, the report said.

China views Taiwan, where nationalist forces fled from the mainland in 1949, as central to “the legitimacy of the regime and key to power projection,” the report said. Taiwan also is seen by China as a way to deny the United States a key ally in “a highly strategic location” of the western Pacific, the report said.

Chinese authorities have said they desire peaceful reunification with Taiwan but will not allow it to declare formal independence and have not ruled out the use of force.

The advisory panel report also recommended that the U.S. increase sales of advanced conventional forces to allies in Asia and improve counterintelligence efforts.

Larry M. Wortzel, chairman of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said he has not seen the report but that blocking Taiwan independence and gaining control of the island “is one of the highest priorities set for the People’s Liberation Army by the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Military Commission.” “If China accomplishes this, its military can concentrate on missions to expand China’s presence, influence, and even control, in wider areas of the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Mr. Wang, the Chinese Embassy spokesman, said China’s budget for 2007 was $45 billion, or 1.4 percent of gross domestic product. He said this year’s defense budget is $57.2 billion, an increase of 17.6 percent.

The United States spends about 4 percent of GDP on defense, according to the CIA World Factbook.

However, the Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military stated that China’s military spending figures do not include spending on China’s space program, strategic forces, foreign acquisitions, military-related research and development and paramilitary forces.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide