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Pentagon Says China Continues Military Build-up

A Pentagon report released Monday asserts that China is continuing its steady military buildup. The annual assessment to Congress also says Beijing's reluctance to share information about its military intentions, spending and capabilities poses a risk to stability. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Every year, the Pentagon is required by Congress to submit a comprehensive assessment of China's military capabilities and an update on the situation in the Taiwan Strait.

This year's report says China's People's Liberation Army is transforming from a mass army designed for long wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting short conflicts against high-tech adversaries. It says that the main short-term focus of China's military build-up is the Taiwan Strait, but that Beijing is also improving its ability to win possible conflicts over resources or territory.

David Sedney, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, says the international community still knows very little about China's military modernization.

"I think the biggest thing for people to be concerned about really is the fact that we don't have that kind of strategic understanding of the Chinese intentions," said Sedney. "And that leads to uncertainty, that leads to a readiness to hedge against the possibility that China's development will go in ways that the Chinese say it won't."

The 2008 report says China's capabilities are expanding from the land, air and sea dimensions of the traditional battlefield into space and cyber-space.

"In the counter-space area, the Chinese test of an anti-satellite system a little over a year ago was something that really brought home in a very dramatic way the capabilities that China has been developing," he said. "Not that we weren't aware of those developments beforehand, but when you see something actually used, then it certainly attracts your attention, because you have seen that not only are they working on it, but they have done it, they have acquired that capability."

Last month, when the Pentagon shot down a defunct U.S. intelligence satellite, China expressed concern, though the Pentagon insisted that it was transparent about its intentions and informed other countries in advance.

The United States believes that China understates its defense spending by tens of billions of dollars.

China's own military newspaper last week called on Beijing to increase defense spending to make up for what it called "historic shortfalls" in the 1980's and 1990's. China's Liberation Army Daily warned of grave consequences if the spending increases do not continue.