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Chinese General Says Weapons Buildup Merely Defensive, Not Offensive

By | June 2, 2008

      A Chinese general said at an international conference that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) weapons-buying spree is purely for defensive purposes, according to news reports in the Brisbane Times Web site, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.

      Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the PLA general staff, without naming the United States, implied that it is Americans who are destabilizing the Asian military balance by creating a missile defense force. He also criticized nations seeking to expand military ties in the area.

      China is a peace-loving nation that is merely trying to keep up with those military moves by others, Ma said at a high-profile conference of senior defense officials from Asian nations, and other luminaries including U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

      Further, Ma’s position is that China is well able to afford the PLA military buildup financially, pointing to robust Sino economic growth and government finances.

      China sells $200 billion-plus more goods and services to the United States each year than China buys in goods made by Americans, meaning Americans are helping to finance the Chinese military buildup.

      His remarks ran counter to remarks by Gates, who has wondered why China needs all that new military hardware just to defend itself.

      Consider these points to assess whether the Chinese arms buildup is merely defensive, and whether the United States is pursuing aggressive and destabilizing policies:

      • The U.S. multilayered ballistic missile shield is defensive only. It cannot be used to attack other nations, but rather can only be used to neutralize incoming missiles launched by any nation that might attack the United States or its allies.
      • China already had a coastal defense force when it began its weapons buying binge a decade ago.
      • While Chinese leaders say they merely wish to defend their homeland, they have procured intercontinental ballistic missiles that, while sited on the Chinese mainland, can strike Washington, D.C.
      • In contrast, if China wishes to make good on its vow to invade Taiwan, the island nation is just 100 miles from the Chinese mainland coast.
      • The PLA Air Force is buying longer-range bombers, cutting-edge fighter aircraft and more.
      • In the PLA Navy, China possesses older-design aircraft carriers, and is considering acquiring modern flattops able to project power globally.
      • The PLAN also is buying advanced Russian Sovremenny Class destroyers.
      • China is procuring eight different classes of submarines, including the Jin Class that is nuclear powered (infinite range while submerged), wielding nuclear-tipped missiles with a range of almost 5,000 miles. In other words, while submerged in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it could launch a nuclear strike on New York City.
      • A Chinese submarine, while submerged, slithered up unnoticed by U.S. forces until it was within torpedo range of an American aircraft carrier, then surfaced.
      • In another buildup, China has deployed more than 1,400 missiles aimed toward Taiwan, meaning no U.S. aircraft carrier group could enter the Taiwan Strait to defend Taiwan from Chinese aggression without being annihilated. First, U.S. super-stealthy air dominance aircraft would have to take out those missiles. And yet China asserts that it is the United States that is belligerent, and changing the balance of power in the region.
      • China has developed anti-satellite technology that could be used to disable or destroy U.S. military and civilian satellites crucial to American forces in communications, intelligence and more. China also used a ground-based laser to blind a U.S. military satellite.
      • China also has formed a huge cadre of computer hackers who could bring down critical U.S. computer and communications systems, having even hacked into Pentagon low-security computer systems. U.S. financial, commercial, electrical power grid, transportation and other vital systems are at risk.
      • U.S. sources suspect China surreptitiously copied files in the personal laptop computer of U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez when he attended trade talks in December.
      • That is just one example of aggressive Chinese espionage, adding to incidents such as the theft of U.S. nuclear weapons technology and more.

      For his part, Gates warned China that its bellicose buildup of weapons platforms could lead to an Asian arms race.

      He also counseled China to stop bullying nearby nations, such as those in the South China Sea, over energy issues.

      Finally, Gates said it is time for China to begin playing by international rules, including an end to secretiveness about military and economic moves by Beijing. As a newly emergent major power, China ought to adopt openness and transparency, according to Gates.

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