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Study: China readying for conflict

China may be modifying its tactics for military action over Taiwan.
• U.S. rebukes China's Taiwan threat
• Factsheet:  China

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Communist leaders in Beijing have long talked of a "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan, but military preparations seem to contradict that talk, according to a Pentagon analysis.

China's "determined focus on preparing for conflict in the Taiwan Strait -- to include accelerated deployments of short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan -- casts a cloud over Beijing's declared policy," the U.S. Defense Department has said.

These findings are contained in the Pentagon's annual report to Congress about the war making capabilities of the Peoples Republic of China.

The report also notes progress in developing China's military for the purpose of keeping Taiwan from permanently separating from the mainland, or "if required, to compel by force the integration of Taiwan under mainland authority."

The military developments are on a path with implications for any U.S. defense of Taiwan, it says.

The Taipei government considers itself an independent, Western-style democracy allied with the United States, while Beijing considers it an illegitimate breakaway island.

Mainland China's objectives regarding Taiwan include "capabilities to deter, delay, or disrupt third-party intervention in a cross-Strait military crisis."

Chinese leaders have taken note of the U.S. military strategy and performance in recent conflicts including Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, and have identified several points they may use to upgrade their own military doctrine.

The Pentagon experts believe China took note of low-tech strategies the enemy used against coalition forces in Kosovo that were able to stymie precision-strike systems, including camouflage, concealment, simple decoys, and frequent movement of forces.

China may also take a page from the Pentagon's success using remote-control aircraft, taking note of China's effort to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles.

One long-range reconnaissance aircraft the Chinese continue to develop was reverse-engineered in the 1980s from U.S. "Firebee" drones that had been recovered during the Vietnam War.

China's model is not yet thought to have a data link to allow remote control or real-time intelligence.

Although the authors acknowledge their report is "little more than our best estimate," some of the trends noted in the past year are of concern to the Pentagon analysts.

"Beijing views itself as operating from an increasingly competitive position relative to other established world powers, including the United States," the study says.

Trade revenue

The report notes perceptions in China that the U.S. war on terror has "reduced U.S. 'pressure' on and 'containment' of China," at a time China's economy has seen rapid growth to help pay for military modernization.

That growth has come, in part, from substantial revenue generated by trade with the United States.

Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department so far this year has tallied up a $30 billion trade imbalance favoring China, which leads the list of countries contributing to the U.S. trade deficit.

The Defense Department's report says China may hope to downplay its ambitions as part of a plan of "strategic ambiguity," which could include denial and deception, as part of "a mechanism to influence the policies of foreign governments" and international public opinion.

The study also notes China wants access to advanced technology from international suppliers, and may hope the political climate has changed in the 15 years since a pro-democracy movement was crushed with deadly force at Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989.

The report notes most recently "China has lobbied European Union nations to lift the Tiananmen-era arms embargo," which could pave the way for to obtain modern weapon systems and technologies.

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