China building lethal force: US report

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles at a 2015 military parade in Beijing. The US Defence Intelligence Agency's report comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, and continuing disputes abou
Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles at a 2015 military parade in Beijing. The US Defence Intelligence Agency's report comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, and continuing disputes about China's posture in the South China Sea. China said that some of the report's assertions are "extremely unprofessional" and "absurd".PHOTO: REUTERS

It says Beijing is on verge of fielding some of world's most advanced weapons

WASHINGTON • China is likely developing a long-range bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons and a space-based early warning system it could use to more quickly respond to an attack, according to a new report from the United States Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The development of the bomber, when combined with China's land-based nuclear weapons programme and a deployed submarine with intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology, would give Beijing a "triad" of nuclear delivery systems similar to the US and Russia, according to the report published on Tuesday.

"China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region," the report's author, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, said in the introduction.

The report comes as President Donald Trump's administration focuses on the potential for "great power" conflict with countries like China and Russia as part of its national defence strategy.

It also comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, and continuing disputes about China's posture in the South China Sea.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday that some of the report's assertions are "extremely unprofessional" and "absurd", without specifying which aspects of the report she was referring to.

"The report disregards facts and is full of a Cold War and zero-sum mentality. The report speculates on China's path, strategic intention and defence building," Ms Hua said. "We hope the US military can view China's growing military rationally and objectively, and maintain the overall situation of military and bilateral relations."

Despite a slew of disputes over Taiwan, the South China Sea and global trade, the review says there is no indication in Chinese military strategic documents that Beijing views war with the US as looming.

According to the DIA report, Beijing's development of a nuclear-capable bomber would provide China with "its first credible nuclear triad of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea and air - a posture considered since the Cold War to improve survivability and strategic deterrence".

Even without the bomber, China is progressing on its new Jin-class nuclear submarines which, armed with JL-2 ICBMs, are "poised to contribute to China's nuclear deterrent once they begin strategic patrols in the near future", DIA said.

The DIA's observations will likely be used by proponents of the Pentagon's drive to modernise the US' ageing nuclear weapons infrastructure over the next decades, an effort which could total about US$1 trillion (S$1.36 trillion).

 
 

Despite a slew of disputes over Taiwan, the South China Sea and global trade, the review says there is no indication in Chinese military strategic documents that Beijing views war with the US as looming.

Moreover, while China's defence spending climbed an average of 10 per cent per year from 2000 to 2016, total spending remains significantly below that of the US, the report said. Spending was about 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2014 to last year, compared with over 3 per cent of GDP for the US over the same period.

The report also said China has acquired technology "by any means available" in its long-running effort to modernise its armed forces, an effort the DIA said has put the Chinese military "on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world".

China is also developing additional capabilities that can attack and jam satellites after testing an anti-satellite missile system in 2014, according to the DIA.

"Space operations probably will form an integral component of other PLA campaigns," it added, using an acronym for the People's Liberation Army.

BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'China building lethal force: US report'. Print Edition | Subscribe