Pentagon warns of potential problems with militarily strong China
Chinese military parade Photo By: AFP/Getty Images
August 24th, 2011
05:38 PM ET

Pentagon warns of potential problems with militarily strong China

By CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Charley Keyes

The Pentagon issued fresh warnings Wednesday that China's military expansion could stir up new tensions and provoke dangerous misunderstandings

"The pace and scope of China's sustained military investment have allowed China to pursue capabilities we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Schiffer said. "Such capabilities could increase Beijing's options to use military force to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests or resolve military disputes in its favor."

Schiffer was speaking at the Pentagon about the annual survey of defense and security issues involving China.

A classified report was presented to Congress and an 83-page version was made public.

Both Schiffer and the report called for new efforts to share military information with China. And the U.S. praises China for international involvement in such areas as humanitarian and disaster relief and countering pirates.

But the U.S. continues to voice its concerns about a steady Chinese military build-up, including testing of a stealth fighter jet, sea trials of an aircraft carrier it purchased and rebuilt and development of new capabilities under the seas, in space and online.

"There are very real questions, given the overall trends and trajectory in the scope and the scale of China's military modernization efforts," Schiffer said at the Pentagon. "I wouldn't put it on any one particular platform or any one particular system."

He predicted that China would continue to develop the aircraft carrier it bought from Ukraine in 1998 and its combat capability, as well as build new ships.

"We do think China is undertaking an effort to build its own indigenous aircraft carriers," Schiffer said. "I won't speculate on the number, but likely more than one, being developed in the future."

The report said China's economic development and expanding scientific and technology base "facilitated a comprehensive and ongoing military modernization program."

And that larger, newer military could change China's role. "China's modernized military could be put to use in ways that increase China's ability to gain diplomatic advantage to resolve disputes in its favor," the report said.

U.S. support for Taiwan continues to be a source of tension between the U.S. and China. "Beijing is developing capabilities intended to deter, delay or deny possible U.S. support for the island in the event of conflict," the report said. "The balance of cross-Strait military forces and capabilities continues to shift in the mainland's favor."

Schiffer would not say whether a copy of the report had been sent to Chinese leaders. He also would not comment on whether Pakistan had given Chinese officials access to wreckage of a super-secret helicopter left behind after the raid on the Osama bin Laden compound.

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