Beijing says a new U.S. intelligence report outlining a growing missile threat from China is basically "speculation." The report says that within the next 15 years, China will have five times the number of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi would not comment on the accuracy of the U.S. report, or comment on what it says about the state of relations between Washington and Beijing.
But he did make it clear that Beijing uses its modest missile force to make certain that China does not get pushed around by other large, powerful, nuclear-armed nations.
Mr. Sun called the U.S. report speculation and said China "will stand up in its defense in accordance with its own needs."
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency issued the report Wednesday claiming that China will increase its ballistic missile force by nearly five fold by the year 2015.
U.S. intelligence estimates say that China is also well along in the process of changing from old, liquid-fueled missiles launched from fixed locations, to solid fueled missiles that can be quickly moved and hidden in time of crisis.
The report makes it clear that even the new larger force will field a fraction of the firepower deployed by the United States or Russia, which each have thousands of warheads and many missiles.
The report also says North Korea is continuing to develop ballistic missiles and has a multiple stage weapon that could reach parts of the United States. The authors say Iran, too, is working on missiles that could reach the United States, and may have one ready for testing by the end of the decade.
One of the report's key conclusions is that emerging ballistic missile nations are building more powerful and accurate weapons "that pose ever greater risks to U.S. forces, interests and allies throughout the world." That conclusion is likely to bolster Washington's case for controversial U.S. missile defense plans.
But by projecting a large increase in China's missile force, the report also backs Chinese and Russian critics of the U.S. missile defense plans, who say the systems could spark an arms race.