A new Pentagon report questions China's commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue. The report raises concern about military modernization moves that could enable Beijing to threaten Taipei.
The report sent to Congress Friday focuses on what defense officials view as a strategic shift by China in dealing with Taiwan.
It says despite China's declared preference for resolving differences with Taiwan through peaceful means, its ambitious military modernization program may reflect an increased willingness to consider the use of force to achieve unification.
However the report says China's primary political objective in any Taiwan-related crisis would likely be to force authorities on the island to enter into negotiations on Beijing's terms and to undertake military operations with enough rapidity to preclude intervention by third parties like the United States.
The report says China's improved offensive capabilities are giving Beijing an increasing number of what are termed credible options to intimidate or attack Taiwan.
It points specifically at China's build-up of short-range ballistic missiles that can strike Taiwan, threatening airfields, naval bases, communications centers and air defense sites.
It also notes China's build-up of submarines, which defense officials say could enable its forces to cut off Taiwan economically by denying its ships access to sea lanes.
In addition, Pentagon officials say China's acquisition of new destroyers could threaten U.S. naval forces and affect their ability to intervene on Taiwan's behalf in any crisis.
The report to Congress was signed Thursday by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
The tougher assessment of Chinese strategy follows last year's tensions between Washington and Beijing following a collision between a Chinese fighter and a U.S. surveillance plane off the coast of China.
The Chinese fighter crashed into the sea, killing its pilot, who U.S. officials said was flying recklessly. The American aircraft made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island where its crew was detained for 11 days.
The incident has prompted a Pentagon re-evaluation of its military exchanges with China.