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Report: China moving away from military strategy on Taiwan

From Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- China may be engaging in a new strategy of intimidating Taiwan rather than trying to achieve an outright military victory, according to the Pentagon.

A new United States Defense Department report on China's military modernization says Beijing now has a "coercive strategy" to intimidate Taiwan into reaching a settlement with China.

Taiwan, an island off the Chinese coast, has claimed independence from the Chinese government since the communists took control of the mainland in 1949. China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, intends to one day reunify the island with the mainland.

This report on China to Congress -- the first one of an expected annual series from the Bush administration -- offers little new information about China's military efforts, but comes to a different conclusion about Beijing's approach from that found in reports submitted during the Clinton administration.

Under the Clinton administration, the Pentagon regularly assessed China's military assets and concluded that it did not have enough military might to seize control of Taiwan and hold the territory. China has always lacked key capabilities such as modern command and control and the amphibious capability to cross the Taiwan Strait and achieve victory against Taiwan, according to previous assessments.

According to Pentagon officials, the new report does not focus on China's weapons inventory per se, but instead focuses on three military modernization trends that underscore the conclusion about China's coercive intentions.

Those trends are:

  • China continues to place a growing number of medium-range ballistic missiles along its Taiwan Strait coastline. China's goal is to have 600 missiles by 2005; there are about 300 to 350 missiles there now. Ballistic missiles are unguided, and not aimed at specific targets. Therefore they essentially function as weapons of terror against population centers.
  • China continues to acquire submarines that would be capable of establishing a naval blockade against Taiwan's ports, leading to a potential economic stranglehold.
  • China's acquisition of Russian Sovremenny Class destroyers equipped with Sunburn surface-to-surface missiles could prevent U.S. aircraft carriers and other coalition naval assets from coming to Taiwan's assistance. The Sunburn has a 75-mile range.
  • The report also expresses concern about China's improvements to its military communications capability, which has always been seen as a shortfall in any Taiwan campaign.




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