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US military admits 'limited' understanding of Chinese aims

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 12, 2008
A top US military leader on Tuesday admitted the United States has a limited understanding of Chinese military aims and is concerned about Beijing's lack of transparency.

"The growing PLA (People's Liberation Army) military capability remains a concern, and our understanding of PLA intentions is limited," said Admiral Timothy Keating of the US Pacific Command.

"The transparency that they profess is insufficient in our view," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, a week after the release of a Pentagon report that said China had boosted total military spending in 2007 to more than twice its declared budget.

"They clearly want to expand their areas of influence and those strategic goals of theirs, if not exactly counter to ours, then they are at least of concern," the commander said.

Keating said that among US concerns were Chinese surface-to-air capabilities and Chinese electronic warfare development.

"We have state-of-the-art equipment that we can deploy if we need to," Keating said. "The electronic countermeasures we enjoy are in most cases sufficient and in some cases insufficient."

The Pentagon's annual assessment said Beijing's lack of transparency posed risks to stability and voiced concern over how it would use its expanding military power.

The report highlighted Chinese development of cruise and ballistic missiles capable of striking aircraft carriers and other warships at sea, anti-satellite weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

It also cited numerous cyber intrusions into US and other computer networks around the world over the past year, apparently from within China.

"We are concerned about Chinese electronic warfare development and it is a topic of discussion," Keating told the senators, specifying that "informationization" is a topic "they study ... in the war colleges."

"They acknowledge they are pursuing these subspecialties. They do not acknowledge if they are engaging in these activities. It is obvious to me that they are engaging in these activities," Keating said.

China dismissed the Pentagon report as an exaggeration, made in order to justify US sales of military hardware to Beijing's rival Taiwan.

With regard to China-Taiwan tensions, Keating said the United States is "cautiously optimistic that a little bit of steam will leave the kettle" following Taiwan's presidential election later this month.

"I have no indications today that there is increased concern with respect to likelihood of military activity in Taiwan," he added.

The Pentagon estimated China's total military spending in 2007 at between 97 and 139 billion dollars, more than double China's declared budget of 45 billion dollars, which rose by 17.8 percent in 2007 over the previous year.

Asked about the spike in Chinese military spending, Keating said US officials know "their spending is going way up" but only have estimates because "the Chinese will not discuss it ... they don't even bring it up anymore."

When the issue was discussed in the past, Keating said Chinese officials told him the extra funds were "all going to personnel and quality of life."

Keating acknowledged "it costs a lot of money to train and equip" a modern force of soldiers.

"That said, there is no question they are putting a significant amount of money" into research and development of their military arsenal, and "not all of their increased budget, I believe, is going to personnel."

The admiral said his attempts to gain a better understanding of China's plans are often ignored.

"When I ask them they choose not to answer the question," he said, referring to the Chinese military budget.

"They do not share with us their intentions ... beyond the overarching 'We seek to defend those things that are ours.' It's the same answer to nearly every question we ask them."

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Analysis: China's crisis-handling problem
Hong Kong (UPI) Mar 07, 2008
China is not prepared to handle a large-scale external crisis -- particularly in the Taiwan Strait -- it can be concluded after assessing the nation's hardware, including ammunition supplies and fuel reserves, as well as the quality of its military personnel.

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