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US Weekly Reports Chinese Missile Testing Accelerating

The aerospace and defense industry publication, Aviation Week, reports new U.S. intelligence findings that China is stepping up its tests of medium and long-range ballistic missiles. The report comes in the issue of the magazine dated Monday. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

Aviation Week's senior editor Craig Covault said he based his article on discussions with the officers and managers who run the U.S. missile warning satellite system, which gathers information about missile activities around the world.

He said his initial intention was to talk to them about Iran.

"So, the discussion was really focused initially in Iran," said Craig Covault. "And the U.S. Air Force officers said certainly, there's an acceleration of testing in Iran. But then they called my attention to their findings that, in fact, the test activity in China is very much distinctive in its own right for the U.S. military posture between China and the United States."

He gave no definite numbers for how many missile tests China has conducted, other than to say the amount of testing has increased in a way he described as "extensive" and "surprising."

He said increased Chinese missile activity is especially significant with relation to Taiwan, an island Beijing considers part of Chinese territory and has vowed to retake by force if it declares independence.

"They are demonstrating many new tactics and strategies in how they would deploy these missiles were they ever planning to attack Taiwan or even attempting to deter the U.S.," he said.

The United States has promised to help Taiwan defend itself against attack by mainland China. U.S. defense analysts say China has hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan.

Covault added that the U.S. government already has reason to pay greater attention to China's military capabilities, following Chinese demonstration of an anti-satellite weapon in January.

China's Ambassador in Washington, Zhou Wenzhong, said recently Beijing's space ambitions are peaceful.

"China is against militarization of outer space," said Ambassador Wenzhong. "China is against weaponization of outer space. China stands ready to work with other countries for an agreement against arms race in outer space, and that remains China's position."

Covault said there is no military crisis between China and the United States. But he pointed to a recent visit to Beijing by General Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a sign Washington is aware of the potential for crisis.

General Pace called for a hotline to be set up between Beijing and Washington, to reduce the chances of miscalculation at a time when missiles can be fired in minutes.