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China's Weapons Buildup

China’s nuclear weapons stockpile is expected to grow over the next decade as new ballistic missile systems reach operational status and the country achieves sufficient weapon-grade fissile material to meet the immediate needs of its military nukes, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said in a report outlining current and future threats to American interests.

China led the pack of non-U.S. global defense spenders in 2006, laying out up to an estimated $115 billion on its military. Russia was runner-up at about $90 billion; total expenditures on defense outside of the United States were estimated by DIA at $738 billion. Of the top ten non-U.S. spenders, China posted the second-largest increase in real terms in 2006, pouring 9.6 percent more money into its military, the DIA noted in its report Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is in the midst of a more-than-decade-long military modernization program,” the DIA said. The program’s announced budget was $35 billion for 2006, a 14 percent year-on-year hike, but DIA believes actual spending is higher. “PRC leaders remain focused on improving the quality of military personnel and developing or acquiring long-range, precision-strike missiles, modern fighter aircraft, a blue-water navy, and improved amphibious forces,” said the DIA. The agency noted that the PRC has taken delivery of three SS-N-27B-capable KILO-class submarines over the past year, fulfilling its contract with the Russians for eight of the subs. It also continued with its program of homemade fourth-generation F-10 fighters.

China spent $3.4 billion on advanced weapons systems and military technology in the 2005 through 2006 timeframe, said the DIA. Combined with training, and supported by adequate logistics, “these advanced systems have the ability to significantly improve military capabilities,” the report said.

The PRC continues modernizing and expanding its ballistic-missile forces to better its conventional war-fighting capabilities, and to line up an “overwhelming” number of conventional short-range ballistic missiles facing Taiwan. It is also developing several new mobile conventional medium-range systems, and testing three long-range missile systems.

“China remains committed to developing conventional ballistic missiles capable of targeting U.S. and allied military assets in the region,” the DIA said.

The country’s development of a Tomahawk-class ground-launched land-attack cruise missile is ongoing and will enable the PRC to carry out strikes in the Asian theater, the agency said.

China is also a major proliferator of conventional weapons and is a major supplier to sub-Saharan Africa. Its 2006 sales were approximately $500 million after surging to more than $2 billion in 2005. Among the items were multirole fighter aircraft, ground equipment, major surface combatants and submarines, advanced air defense systems, and sophisticated communication and radar systems.

The DIA also noted that the PRC is a concern in the arena of military space and counterspace programs. Increased international cooperation and a growing number of commercial space consortia are allowing satellite technologies and space system operations knowledge to trickle down to countries lacking a domestic space capability, the agency said.

“These developments provide some countries new or more capable communications, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities as most space systems have dual-use, military-civilian applications,” the DIA said. Among the threats to U.S. space assets are antisatellite systems, including satellite-tracking laser range-finding devices and nuclear-armed ballistic missiles; electronic warfare in the form of signal jamming; and ground segment physical attacks.

China also poses a danger in information technology (IT), the DIA said. The country’s influential presence in global IT hardware and software has heightened its technical expertise and capabilities with information operations. Paradoxically, the PRC is the top supplier of IT hardware available to American consumers, chalking up 42 percent of U.S. IT hardware imports tin 2005.

“U.S. dependence on China for certain items critical to the U.S. defense industry and the waning of U.S. global IT dominance are valid concerns that demand vigilance,” said the DIA.

China's overall strategy appears to zero in on internal issues that directly impact its foreign policy. It remains focused on counterterrorism, domestic security, and maritime deployments that improve its capacity for responding to domestic instability and tensions in the East China and South China Seas, the DIA said.

Driving foreign policy are internal concerns including continuing economic growth, maintaining the Communist Party’s grip on power, and safeguarding internal stability, the agency said.

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