By Tom Squitieri, Talk Media News
WASHINGTON — China is steadily moving ahead with stronger confidence and a stronger military to ensure control over the South China Sea, deal with India on its border, take back Taiwan, and be as powerful if not powerful than any military in the world.
It appears on track to a doubling the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade and its military has already equaled or surpassed the United States in a series of key areas — including having a larger Navy, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday.
The annual report covers China’s activities through 2019 — and thus does not touch on some of the more forceful actions by Beijing this year. They include a heated, ongoing border battle with India, tightening control over Hong Kong, more threatening behavior toward Taiwan, aggressively snarling its grip on the South China Sea, and new moves in the East China Sea.
It also is close to being able to deliver nuclear missles by land, sea and air – the so-called Triad that us a foundaton of the U.S. nuclear threat deterence.
China is showing “increasing assertive international behavior” as it seeks to “build a military equal too or superior to the United States or any other nation,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Chad Sbragia said during a discussion of the report at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
He said that China’s ability to project power in the region and beyond has advanced dramatically in recent years. “Their aspirations are not small, and they’re not limited to a single geographic location,” Sbragia said. “This is global in scale.”
This week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper opined that concerned nations in the Pacific ― India, Australia, and Japan ― could form a NATO-like alliance, whose apparent aim would be to deter China. Such an organization — SEATO or Southeast Asia Treaty Organization — did exist but folded in 1977.
Esper spent the past days traveling to Hawaii, Palau, and Guam, meeting officials from across the region. The agendas included discussion of possible common action against China and the planned redistribution of U.S. forces now heavily based in South Korea and Japan to Guam and points farther afield.
The report said that China has already achieved parity with—or even exceeded—the United States in “several military modernization areas,” including shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated air defense systems, space deployment, and naval forces.
It said that China has the “largest navy in the world,” with some 350 ships and submarines, “including over 130 major surface combatants.” The U.S. Navy has 293 ships.
In another critical area in regards to the U.S. defense posture in the Indo-Pacific region, China “has more than 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers,” the report said. During 2019 Beijing “launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined,” the report said — all in tune with China moving from a defensive strategy of securing its coastline to being forward aggressive to fend of U.S. military strategy.
As for military bases, the report said China is eyeing facilities in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, Tajikistan, and Cambodia. They currently have a facility in Djibouti.
“The Communist Party has spent the last several years completely tearing out and rewiring (the People’s Liberation Army) organizationally with the goal of transforming into a joint force that is more combat-ready, innovative and global,” Sbragia said at AEI.
A possible Chinese base in the UAE, which has strong economic ties with China, is particularly troublesome to the Pentagon. As part of the UAE-Israeli diplomatic thaw, the U.S. plans to send the UAE fifth-generation F-35 fighters. The Pentagon is concerned that technology could then be pilfered by Chines operatives in the UAE.