Two U.S. defense officials have testified before Congress on China's
military buildup and future potential. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from
Capitol Hill, questions from lawmakers on the House Armed Services
Committee focused on the current capabilities of China's military and
thinking about Beijing's long-term intentions.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs,
says China has engaged in a sizable and sustained increase in defense
spending, estimates of which range upward from an official figure of
Among other things, he says this has continued to
shift the military balance in the Taiwan Straits in Beijing's favor,
and places U.S. and allied forces in the region at risk.
same time the United States and its defense planners are in a position
of not really knowing what China's true intentions are, particularly as
much continues to be unclear about the Chinese buildup.
increasing capability may alter their intent. In other words, the
increasing capacity of the PLA [People's Liberation Army] may present
the Chinese leadership with more options, and as the chairman mentioned
in his comments, this goes right to the heart of the issue what is the
intent of this build up?," he said.
In the absence of more
transparency on China's part, Shinn says the U.S. is forced to plan
based on what it knows about China's expanding capabilities and, as he
puts it, plan for the worst case.
China's buildup, he adds, has
been across all of its military services, including nuclear forces,
with heavy investment in what is called asymmetrical warfare and cyber
Air force Major General Philip Breedlove, Vice
Director for Strategic Plans and Policy on the U.S. military Joint
Chiefs of Staff points to areas of progress, involving increasing
numbers of military to military bilateral contacts.
says these can help defuse potential situations in the Taiwan Straits,
but he had this response when asked by one lawmaker about current U.S.
thinking about China's intentions:
"It would be hard to construe
an aircraft carrier as being a purely defense weapon. I believe that
one of the things we see China doing, like pursuing an aircraft
carrier, like pursuing some of the longer range capabilities that they
have, conventional capabilities, clearly indicate that they have
aspirations beyond the shores of Taiwan," he said.
At the same
time, Breedlove describes China has very pragmatic, focusing at present
on making friends in oil-rich areas of the world, such as Africa, to
ensure access to these areas.
Committee chairman Ike Skelton, a
Democrat from Missouri, asserts that the focus of U.S. military
resources on Iraq in recent years has allowed China to grow its
influence in Asia and beyond.
While he points to some progress
in terms of China's openness, such as providing access for U.S.
officials to military facilities, Skelton had this observation: "China
has still not adequately revealed its full defense spending, military
modernization efforts, or its strategic intentions."
military ambitions still remain clouded. I and I know others on this
committee as well as many others across the globe are concerned about
their intentions, and as much about what we don't know as what we do
know," said Representative John McHugh, ranking Republican on the
As for recommendations, Shinn told lawmakers the U.S.
must continue to build its intelligence and analysis, train and equip
U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, and work closely with allies so
they can deal with enhanced Chinese capabilities.
declined to give detailed responses on certain questions citing the
unclassified nature of Wednesday's committee hearing. However, the two
subsequently took part in a classified closed-door session with