China has not abandoned military option in Taiwan Strait: U.S. report
Central News Agency
Washington, May 18 (CNA) The latest U.S. military report on China's military power indicated that Beijing continues to view the use of force as an important point of leverage in its relations with Taiwan and has maintained its heavy ballistic missile deployment targeting Taiwan, despite warming ties between the two sides.
As of October 2011, China had between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles in position opposite Taiwan, the U.S. Department of Defense said in an annual report released Friday.
The missiles come with 200 to 250 ground launchers, according to the 2012 Pentagon report on military and security developments involving China.
It said China continues to invest in its land-based ballistic and cruise missile programs.
"It is developing several variants of offensive missiles, upgrading older systems, forming additional units, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses," the report said.
Furthermore, China is acquiring large numbers of highly accurate and domestically built cruise missiles, it said.
The report also noted that last year, China began sea trials of its first aircraft carrier, which it purchased from Ukraine in 1998.
The aircraft carrier would likely serve initially as a training and evaluation platform, the Pentagon report said.
Even when China begins to deploy aircraft capable of operating from a carrier, the vessel would only offer limited capability for carrier-based air operations in the short term, according to the report.
However, China may have already begun building some components of its first indigenous carrier, which is likely to be able to achieve operational capability after 2015, the report said.
"China likely will build multiple aircraft carriers and associated support ships over the next decades," the Pentagon said in the report that has been delivered to the U.S. Congress for reference.
"We see China investing in a range of combatants, advances in their capability for integrated air defense or to conduct … precision conventional strikes at great distances from China," said David Helvey, U.S. acting assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, at a press briefing on the report Friday.
He said his department is concerned that such military capabilities could affect the ability of the United States or other forces in the region to be able to operate in the Western Pacific, if they are employed.
Taiwan and China had been in a military and political standoff since 1949 when the Communist Party won a civil war on the mainland, driving the Kuomintang government to relocate to Taiwan.
The tensions did not ease until Taiwan's presidential election in 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang was elected. Ma, who has opened Taiwan's doors to Chinese businessmen, tourists and cultural workers, was re-elected in January.
But Helvey said that although cross-strait relations have improved over the past years, "China's military shows no sign of slowing its efforts to prepare for Taiwan Strait contingencies."
The Pentagon report noted that while Taiwan has taken a number of steps to address gaps in its military capabilities, domestic priorities and other considerations are competing with the armed forces for resources and funding.
Consequently, the cross-strait military balance -- in terms of personnel, force structure, weapons, and developments in military doctrine -- continues to trend in Beijing's favor, the report said.
The report also indicated that while the Chinese military remains short of the ability to conduct a full-scale amphibious invasion of Taiwan, China's growing capabilities have enhanced its ability to strike economic and military targets on the island, and "to deter, delay, or deny possible intervention by third parties."
China has in place other military solutions such as air blockades, missile attacks and mining to obstruct ports and approaches, the report said.
(By Tony Liao and Elizabeth Hsu)
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