- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Pentagon this week will release its long-delayed annual report to Congress on China’s military with a new title that officials say reflects the Obama administration’s conciliatory, “soft power” approach to world affairs.

The Pentagon notified the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Friday that the report, which was due to Congress on March 1, will be released Monday after a closed-door briefing for staff members.

The report, formerly called the “Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China,” has been renamed the “Annual Report on Security Developments Involving China,” according to congressional and defense officials.

The Obama administration has sought to reorient U.S. foreign and security policies by seeking to play down U.S. military power, a policy known as soft power. The policy has been applied to China, Russia and Iran with few matching conciliatory policies from those states.

The congressional briefing on the new report is set for Monday and will be led by Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia and Pacific affairs, and include officials from the Joint Staff, Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department.

The unclassified report also contains a classified annex and will outline China’s large-scale military buildup that has been based on double-digit annual spending increases by Beijing.

Details of the latest report remain “close hold” until its formal release, set for Monday afternoon.

A defense official familiar with the latest report said it will be based on previous annual reports and contain few new details of Beijing’s development of an array of new missiles, submarines and warships.

The report is required under a 2000 law and was modeled after the Cold War-era annual Soviet Military Power reports produced by the Pentagon.

The Beijing government each year has protested the release of the report, asserting that it exaggerates China’s military.

A group of former U.S. and Chinese military officials, known as the Sanya Initiative, also have lobbied successive administrations and Congress against the report, claiming the report unfairly characterizes China’s military modernization.

Last month, five Republican senators wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to ask why the report was not delivered to Congress despite the fact that a draft of the report had been completed early in 2010.

They said the report was needed for the authorization and appropriations committees to determine whether U.S. force structure should be adjusted to meet the challenge of China’s military buildup.

Senate Democrats also approved language in their version of the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill expressing “displeasure” at the failure of the Pentagon to produce the report on time.

China’s military has taken a hard line against the Pentagon in recent months, cutting off military exchanges to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. China’s government also was angered by statements from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States is willing to mediate ongoing territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea, which China is claiming as its domain.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said he has changed his view of China’s military buildup from curiosity to concern.

He said in remarks in Seoul last month that the concern is based on China’s significant investment in “high-end” weaponry, including satellites, ships, missiles, anti-ship missiles and advanced warplanes.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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