The Growing Chinese Threat
The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency has warned that China’s military modernisation is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait and increasing the threat to US forces in the region.
Delivering the agency’s annual assessment of worldwide threats on Wednesday, Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman who was named in September to head the CIA, dropped any mention of the co-operative elements of the US-China relationship that characterised recent CIA statements. Instead, he said China was making determined military and diplomatic efforts to Ã¢€œcounter what it sees as US efforts to contain or encircle ChinaÃ¢€.
Mr Goss’s statements on China were a small part of testimony that highlighted the threat Islamic terrorism poses to the US and emphasised concerns over Iran and North Korea. He has also said that he wants to refocus the agency on its traditional mission of assessing threats and avoid statements that could be interpreted as setting US policy.
But the statement on China indicated the CIA is paying growing attention to what it considers potential military threats amid China’s growing economic ties with its neighbours and the US. Mr Goss referred to US concerns over the increase in Chinese ballistic missiles deployed across the Taiwan Strait and the improvements in China’s nuclear and conventional capabilities.
The change in tone was notable given US concerns over Europe’s plan to end its embargo on arms sales to China. Experts on China said that, while warnings about China’s military capabilities were not new, the CIA had in the past underscored the co-operation between the US and China.
Here is the Goss testimony:
Beijing’s military modernization and military buildup is tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait. Improved Chinese capabilities threaten US forces in the region.
*In 2004, China increased its ballistic missile forces deployed across from Taiwan and rolled out several new submarines.
*China continues to develop more robust, survivable nuclear-armed missiles as well as conventional capabilities for use in a regional conflict.
Taiwan continues to promote constitutional reform and other attempts to strengthen local identity. Beijing judges these moves to be a “timeline for independence”. If Beijing decides that Taiwan is taking steps toward permanent separation that exceed Beijing’s tolerance, we believe China is prepared to respond with various levels of force.
China is increasingly confident and active on the international stage, trying to ensure it has a voice on major international issues, secure access to natural resources, and counter what it sees as US efforts to contain or encircle China.
The timing of these statements is, of course, pretty interesting, since the Bush administration has been calling on the Chinese to intensify pressure on North Korea.