Pentagon: Huge Chinese military buildup opposite Taiwan continues
Even though China and Taiwan have been getting along better recently, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planning remains dominated by preparations for taking back the island, and it continues to amass troops, ships, and missiles on its side of the Taiwan Strait, according to a new Pentagon report released today. "Although the PLA is ...
Even though China and Taiwan have been getting along better recently, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) planning remains dominated by preparations for taking back the island, and it continues to amass troops, ships, and missiles on its side of the Taiwan Strait, according to a new Pentagon report released today.
Even though China and Taiwan have been getting along better recently, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planning remains dominated by preparations for taking back the island, and it continues to amass troops, ships, and missiles on its side of the Taiwan Strait, according to a new Pentagon report released today.
"Although the PLA is contending with a growing array of missions, Taiwan remains its main strategic direction," stated the 2011 version of the Pentagon’s annual report on the PLA. "The PLA seeks the capability to deter Taiwan independence and influence Taiwan to settle the dispute on Beijing’s terms. In pursuit of this objective, Beijing is developing capabilities intended to deter, delay, or deny possible U.S. support for the island in the event of conflict. The balance of cross-Strait military forces and capabilities continues to shift in the mainland’s favor."
The annual congressionally mandated report was due in March but was late, as usual. It is prepared primarily by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy’s Asia and Pacific affairs team and this year was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Schiffer.
"Relations with Taiwan have continued to improve, but the PLA shows no sign of slowing its efforts to develop plans and capabilities for a cross-Strait contingency," the report stated. "In the current decade to 2020, the PLA is likely to steadily expand its military options for Taiwan, including those to deter, delay, or deny third party intervention."
The Chinese military is also increasing the firepower on its shores opposite Taiwan and now has between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) within range of the island. "To improve the lethality of this force, the PLA is introducing variants of missiles with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads," the report said.
The PLA is also buying highly accurate cruise missiles and developing anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), which the report said were meant to attack large ships, such as aircraft carriers, in the Western Pacific. Meanwhile, China is set to start testing its first aircraft carrier this year and could have a second one built by 2015. "China likely will build multiple aircraft carriers with support ships over the next decade," the report noted.
Meanwhile, China is improving its over-the-horizon radar capabilities and its use of unmanned aerial vehicles, and it continues to develop several types of airborne early warning and control planes, all of which could be used to monitor U.S. ships in the Western Pacific. It is also expanding its nuclear submarine fleet, finishing development of a fifth-generation stealth fighter, and upgrading its B-6 bomber fleet.
400,000 of China’s total of 1.2 million ground troops are also based in the three military regions in China closest to Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwan plans to cut its military force to 215,000 troops and transition to an all-volunteer military by 2015, the report stated.
"Throughout the PLA’s modernization drive, Taiwan contingency planning has largely dominated the agenda," the report said.
In a press briefing on Wednesday with reporters, Schiffer said, "There are trends, as the report points to, that continue to point to a very challenging military and security environment across the [Taiwan] Strait."
Schiffer wouldn’t confirm reports that the Pentagon has notified Taiwanese officials that the administration intends to deny Taiwan’s request to purchase 66 new F-16 fighter jets.
"I will simply offer that there have been no decisions that have been made on arms sales to Taiwan," he said. "And consistent with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States will provide to Taiwan the self-defense capabilities that it requires."
Josh Rogin is a former staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshrogin
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