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Growing US Military Concerns For China

In fact, most of the recent defense bugdet increases will be spent on paying a living wage that will help in part to encourge trained personnel to remain with the PLA.
by Shihoko Goto
UPI Senior Business Correspondent
Washington (UPI) March 10, 2007
There is no denying that the U.S. military is overstretched, not least as troop presence is expected to surge in Iraq while its commitment in Afghanistan remains high. Yet despite such pressures, the United States may well boost its commitment in East Asia amid growing concerns about China's expanding military power.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate armed services committee Thursday, U.S. Navy Adm. Timothy Keating warned that as China increases its military spending, the United States needs to keep a watchful eye over Taiwan.

"In dealing with the People's Republic of China and with the government of Taiwan, we would emphasize that China has to be very careful in the development of offensive weapons," the admiral said. "We want to sustain Taiwan's notion of a defensive front from their military capabilities. We would encourage increased dialogue between those two countries on an informal basis. And we're not unaware of the burgeoning economic engine that is trade across the Straits of Taiwan."

Keating has been named by President Bush as the next military commander of the Pacific region to replace Adm. William Fallon, who has been nominated to be the next top commander in the Middle East.

The appointment process of Pacific Command comes a week after China announced it will bolster its military spending by nearly 18 percent from a year ago this year, marking the largest increase in over a decade. The government's official stance is that the bulk of the money will be used to increase wages and living allowances for military personnel, in addition to upgrading arms.

Many analysts, however, expect the increase to be even higher and there is growing concern that much of the budget could be allocated to purchase new weapons. Furthermore, a considerable amount of the country's military spending has traditionally been used for a potential conflict with Taiwan, which split from the country in 1949 and the Chinese government still continues to refute its independence from the mainland.

The admiral emphasized that the United States should be prepared to step in to protect Taiwan should the need occur, even though some members of Congress have warned that Taiwan has sometimes gone out of its way to provoke a hostile confrontation with China in an attempt to declare independence from the Communist state.

Keating is far from alone within the administration in expressing his concerns about China's growing military might. For instance, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was in China earlier this week, and stated that the Chinese government should make its military budget more transparent "so that we have a bit better understanding of exactly what it is that the government of China has in mind with respect to its military modernization."

At the same time, however, Keating pointed out that while China may be jacking up its military spending, it still remains well behind the United States in terms of technology.

Keating also warned lawmakers that China's missile testing in January to destroy a weather satellite was evidence that the country could prove to be a threat to international space assets. He pointed out that the missiles could hit satellites in the sky which was played a crucial role in connecting the world and keeping the global economy going on the one hand, while a hit could lead to considerable space debris on the other.

Nevertheless, the admiral said that the United States should keep close military ties with China, including holding joint exercises.

"We'll undertake as aggressive but measured and reasonable approach as we can to the senior military leadership, and not just the senior military leaders, but at as many levels as we can with the Chinese military, so as to develop relationships and an understanding and a common bond," he said.

Source: United Press International

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