- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2019

China lashed out anew Wednesday over Washington’s deployment two years ago of a sophisticated missile defense system to South Korea, asserting in a rare defense white paper that the move “severely undermined the regional strategic balance” in northeast Asia.

In its first major outline Chinese defense priorities since President Xi Jinping came to power more than six years ago, Beijing also focused on desires to contain “Taiwan independence” and combat separatist forces in China’s far west Xinjiang region, as well as in Tibet.

But the document wasted little time before homing in on the U.S., claiming Washington has “adopted unilateral policies” in the national security and defense realms in recent years in a way that has “provoked and intensified competition among major countries.”

The U.S. has “significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability,” the white paper said.

There was no mention of any specific U.S. administration in the document, which separately asserted that NATO has “continued its enlargement,” while Russia, too, is “strengthening its nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities for strategic containment.”

The Trump administration and the Pentagon did not immediately respond the white paper Wednesday.

This is the 10th such defense priorities outline that Beijing has publicized since 1998 — the last having circulated in 2011. The document comes just months after U.S. military officials issued their own assessment on the advancement in recent years of Chinese military capabilities.

A January report by the Defense Intelligence agency argued that China’s rapidly modernizing military is closing the gap with the U.S. and that Beijing has an increasingly internationally-focused defense strategy.

The goal of China’s military buildup is to “impose its will” across northeast Asia, senior DIA officials said at the time, stressing that Washington’s biggest concerns stem from the possibility that Chinese officials might suddenly embrace a strategy of using military force to achieve their goal of containing Taiwan.

Taiwan split from the Communist Party-ruled mainland China amid civil war in 1949. China maintains that Taiwan is part of its territory and seeks “complete reunification.”

Wednesday’s white paper said China will not renounce the use of force in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland and vowed to take all necessary military measures to defeat “separatists.”

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the threat of Taiwan separatism is growing and warned that those who are seeking the democratic island’s independence will meet a dead end.

“If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will certainly fight, resolutely defending the country’s sovereign unity and territorial integrity,” said Mr. Wu, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. has repeatedly raised Beijing’s ire by selling weapons to Taiwan. While Washington does not have formal diplomatic ties with the island, U.S. law requires that it provide Taiwan with sufficient defense equipment and services for self-defense. This month saw Washington tentatively approve the sale of $2.2 billion in arms to Taiwan — a proposal that prompted China to threaten sanctions against the U.S.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it made the request for the weapons in response to a growing military threat from China.

Scott W. Harold, a visiting fellow in the Asia program at the French think tank Institut Montaigne, has noted the weapons would include 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger man-portable air defense systems.

“The arms sale reflects the Trump administration’s growing commitment to the status and security of Taiwan as a ‘democratic success story, reliable partner, and force for good in the world,’ as well as a view of China as a great power competitor,” Mr. Harold wrote in an analysis published by the think tank this week.

On a separate front, the white paper published Wednesday defended China’s actions with regard to disputed waters in the South China Sea and islands there that face competing regional sovereignty claims.

U.S. officials have expressed outrage over China’s construction during recent years of military facilities on man-made islands in the region.

The white paper said, “China exercises its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and to conduct patrols in the waters of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.”

The document seemed to downplay the notion that China is eager to actually use military force in the sea disputes. “China is committed to resolving related disputes through negotiations with those states directly involved on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law,” it said. “China continues to work with regional countries to jointly maintain peace and stability.”

But Chinese officials showed little restraint criticizing Washington’s 2017 deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea, asserting the move “has severely undermined the regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries.”

“In an attempt to circumvent the post-war mechanism, Japan has adjusted its military and security policies and increased input accordingly, thus becoming more outward-looking in its military endeavors,” the white paper said. “Australia continues to strengthen its military alliance with the US and its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific, seeking a bigger role in security affairs.”

The document separately listed Tibet and the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang as top national defense priorities.

China’s paramilitary police have helped Xinjiang authorities “take out 1,588 violent terrorist gangs and capture 12,995 terrorists,” the report said. The United States, independent analysts and human rights groups have estimated that around 1 million Muslims have been detained in internment camps in what the government calls a counterterrorism campaign.

Former Uighur and Kazakh detainees and their families have accused China of punishing religious expression and separating children from their parents. They say members of their predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have been arbitrarily detained and subject to political indoctrination.

China has long called the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist. But the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader says he wants only a greater degree of autonomy for the region.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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