Wednesday, May 24, 2006

China’s secret military buildup includes laser anti-satellite weapons and new long-range nuclear missile systems set for deployment this year, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the Chinese military.

The report presents the Pentagon’s most dire view to date of China’s weapons and strategy development, which is focused on fighting a war with Taiwan and also is expanding to project military power to other parts of the world.

The 58-page assessment includes an implicit but stark warning to Beijing that any attack on Taiwan would result in the loss or boycott of 2008 Olympics Games, or the disruption of China’s vital oil shipments from the Middle East.

“We’re not predicting anything bad is going to happen [before the Olympics],” Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, told reporters in a telephone briefing on the report. “But we’re also discussing some of the risks China would run and some of the vulnerabilities China has, and those are some of the factors that would argue for restraint.”

U.S. intelligence agencies think “China would have difficulty protecting its vital sea lines of communication while simultaneously supporting a blockade or invasion operations against [Taiwan],” the report said.

“If Beijing chose to use force against Taiwan prior to the 2008 Olympics, China would almost certainly face a boycott or loss of the games,” the report said, noting that U.S. intervention is a “virtual certainty” and that Japan probably would support it.

As the military balance on the Taiwan Strait continues to shift in Beijing’s favor, China’s secrecy surrounding its weapons buildup is prompting growing uncertainty within the Pentagon and among other nations in Asia, the report said.

The report said China recently deployed 25,000 additional troops near Taiwan, in addition to the nearly 800 short-range ballistic missiles now within range of the island, against which Beijing has threatened to use force.

On satellite arms, the report said, “Beijing continues to pursue an offensive anti-satellite (ASAT) system.” It was the first time the Pentagon provided details on Beijing’s anti-satellite weapons.

“At least one of the satellite attack systems appears to be a ground-based laser designed to damage or blind imaging satellites,” the report stated, noting that China currently can destroy satellites only by launching a ballistic missile or space launcher armed with a nuclear weapon.

The report said China’s buildup is couched in secrecy and that the Chinese military is using strategic deception to fool others about it. “Whole departments of military academies teach moulue, or strategic deception,” the report said. The practice tries to “lure the other side into developing misperceptions.”

Recent statements by a Chinese general that China will use nuclear weapons against the United States in response to conventional missile strikes suggest China’s military is debating a change in its stated policy of not being the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict, the report said.

The nuclear policy debate is being watched carefully and “gaps” remain in U.S. intelligence on China, which has caused surprises in the past, Mr. Rodman said.

On China’s power projection, the report says, China in the past lacked the ability to keep a military presence in the sea lanes approaching China. Now China’s navy is “interested in expanding its presence through the Straits of Malacca and into the Indian Ocean,” the report said, noting that building an aircraft carrier would be one sign of a broader “sea control” strategy.

New strategic missiles identified in the report include the DF-31, deployed this year, and DF-31A long-range nuclear missile set to be fielded next year. The JL-2 submarine-launched nuclear missile is set for deployment as early as next year. The Chinese also are building two long-range land attack cruise missiles and several types of high-speed anti-ship cruise missiles.

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