WASHINGTON — China’s military can now contest what once was U.S. military superiority in the Pacific Ocean, is increasing threats in niche areas and is close to matching the U.S. and Russia in having a nuclear triad, Pentagon officials said Friday.
One way the Chinese have accelerated their military strength is via espionage to pirate advanced, cutting-edge technology for military purposes, a Pentagon report says.
“The Chinese (goal) is to supplant the U.S. and become the pre-eminent power in the Pacific,” Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told Pentagon reporters Friday.
He said Beijing is focusing their buildups in certain contingencies — such as the East China Sea, Taiwan and the South China Sea — while “preparing as well for (possible conflict) on their land borders.” He also said their military advances are in “niche areas” that support those priorities.
“Directing their efforts to prevail in those contingencies” means they will most likely face confrontation with the United States, Schriver said.
Not detailed in the report but acknowledged by Schriver is that China either has or is on the verge of having the ability to use nuclear weapons from land, sea and air platforms — the so-called nuclear triad. Only the U.S, and Russia now have that capability.
One of the most visible areas of contention is the South China Sea, where China has militarized many islands that are claimed by a multitude of nations in hopes of placing a vise grip on those international waters.
Schriver said the U.S. and others will continue to increase sailing and sorties in and above the region to ensure the area remains open to all.
“We will fly, sail and operate where international law allows, joined by other countries, so one country cannot change that,” Schriver said.
He said China’s continuing destabilizing activities will result in getting more action from the United Stares with a “cost impact” that would “make that investment the Chinese have made as insignificant as possible.”
The annual report, required by Congress, highlights how China has used “a variety of methods” to steal technology, including “targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals’ access to these technologies.
“China obtains foreign technology through imports, foreign direct investment, the establishment of foreign research and development (R&D) centers, joint ventures, research and academic partnerships, talent recruitment, and industrial and cyberespionage,” the report added.
Additionally, some Chinese citizens or ethnic Chinese citizens living abroad use “coercion and blackmail” to obtain data and technology, boosted by Chinese military attachés who conduct clandestine and overt intelligence operations, the report said.
China’s defense budget has nearly doubled during the past decade, with the bulk directed to making its navy robust and modern, the report said. China has near Asia’s largest navy, “with more than 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships, patrol craft, and specialized types,” according to the report.
A top priority for Beijing is modernization of China’s submarine force, the report said. It projected the sub force “will likely grow to between 65 and 70 submarines by 2020” anchored on a new guided-missile nuclear attack submarine by the mid-2020s that will add “a more clandestine land-attack option” to the arsenal.
Another highlighted report area is China’s increasing buildup in the Arctic. The report said Chinese activity in Arctic has skyrocketed, including activities that “could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks.”