Tuesday, February 28, 2006

China is building up its military — including nuclear missiles, ships and submarines — with the apparent goal of expanding its power throughout Asia, senior military intelligence officials told Congress yesterday.

Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “there’s almost a momentum in Chinese thinking that … great powers need certain things, and they aren’t necessarily tied to a specific military event, either proposed or expected, but simply become the trappings of their global legitimacy.”

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and committee chairman, said he is concerned that China is “creating a military force far beyond what it needs to protect [its] own security interest.” Beijing appears set to “project influence and perhaps even force elsewhere in the region,” he said.

In response, Gen. Hayden said China is focusing its military buildup on a conflict over the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the expansion of influence regionally.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the committee that part of the buildup includes increasing missile and nuclear forces.

“One of China’s top military priorities is to strengthen and modernize its strategic nuclear deterrent force by increasing its size, accuracy and survivability,” Gen. Maples said.

He said the Chinese missile expansion will “enhance their coercion and deterrence value and overcome ballistic missile defenses.”

Beijing also is building a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the 8,000-mile range JL-2, and has been flight-testing it and two other long-range missiles, Gen. Maples said. Deployment is expected in the next four years. In addition, the Chinese have purchased advanced fighters, built advanced deep-sea warships and fielded improved amphibious forces, he said.

Beijing also is working on space-warfare and information-warfare capabilities that can be used to attack U.S. satellites and computer systems, Gen. Maples said, noting that Russia also is working on space arms.

Gen. Maples said Iran is working to build nuclear arms and is developing long-range missiles in addition to its current arsenal of medium-range missiles.

He also warned that Russia’s sale of 30 short-range air defense missiles will allow Iran to threaten ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

On Iraq, the insurgency remains “strong and resilient,” Gen. Maples said. Attacks decreased slightly in recent months but averaged about 70 per day in January.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain the weapon of choice, and sectarian violence is increasing, he said.

Sunni Arabs make up most of the insurgents, with a smaller number of Iraqi terrorists and foreign fighters adding to their ranks.

Dissatisfaction among Iraqis over indiscriminate attacks by terrorists has increased but has not disrupted the overall strength of the insurgency, Gen. Maples said.

Many elements of the new Iraqi security forces have sectarian ties, and insurgents have infiltrated their ranks, he said.

Gen. Maples, however, said he thinks the new Iraqi government and military can fight a civil war without collapsing.

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