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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

China Says It Needs Strong Military, Citing Taiwan

Beijing (AFP): China needs a strong and credible military, the government said Friday in a key policy document, citing what it termed security challenges it cannot ignore, such as Taiwan's independence drive. North Korea's nuclear program and a strengthening US-Japan alliance are also evolving factors that make Asia-Pacific security more volatile, forcing China to boost its armed forces, the 2006 Defense White Paper argued.

"To build a powerful and fortified national defense is a strategic task of China's modernization drive," said the white paper, the fifth ever issued by Beijing.

It said that China's defense expenditures had grown by more than 15 percent every year since 1990, although that figure falls to 9.6 percent once inflation is taken into account.

China's defense white papers are scrutinized carefully by overseas observers for clues about future policies and the fate of the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA), the world's largest military.

"The struggle to oppose and contain the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence' and their activities remains a hard one," said the white paper.

The Taiwan authorities still pose "a grave threat to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as to peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits and in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole," it said.

China and Taiwan have been separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory, awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Chinese Air Force J-10
Looking at the overall situation in the Asia-Pacific, the paper argued that "new changes have occurred in the hotspots in the region."

"The United States and Japan are strengthening their military alliance... (Japan's) military posture is becoming more external-oriented," it said.

"(North Korea) has launched missile tests and conducted a nuclear test."

Addressing its own nuclear capability, China said it was based on "a self-defensive nuclear strategy."

"Its fundamental goal is to deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China," it said.

China remains firmly committed to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, it said.

"It unconditionally undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones, and stands for the comprehensive prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons."

Looking to the future, the white paper pointed to the need to boost China's capacity to win high-tech wars and those fought at sea.

By the middle of the century, China aims to be capable of winning "information wars", a form of conflict in which high-tech operations such as attacks on the adversary's computer systems play a crucial role.

"The PLA is carrying out a strategic project for training a large contingent of new-type and high-caliber military personnel suited to the task of informatization of the armed forces," it said.

The Navy, the traditional hallmark of a great power but so far the weak younger brother of China's land army, will get more teeth in future.

"The Navy aims at gradual extension of the strategic depth for offshore defensive operations and enhancing its capabilities in integrated maritime operations and nuclear counterattacks," it said.

This follows remarks made by President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, calling for a strong and modern naval force.

"The navy force should be strengthened and modernized... to serve the country and its people more effectively," said Hu when meeting representatives of the naval forces.
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