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China’s Missile Testing Concerns Pentagon

National

Spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade. | Image by Mark Schiefelbein/AP

An increasing number of ballistic missile tests from China are prompting concerns from the Pentagon, as expressed in a new assessment of Beijing’s quickly expanding military efforts.

The East Asian country is on pace to possess 1,500 nuclear weapons within the next decade, The Washington Post reported.

The new findings were detailed in a report for Congress that is set to be released publicly in an unclassified format on Tuesday.

The Pentagon highlighted China’s desire to pursue global dominance, and it comes at a time when the Chinese Communist Party is facing several uprisings, creating one of the greatest internal challenges the party has faced in recent years.

Demonstrations in some cities against President Xi Jinping’s COVID-19 lockdowns call for his removal. Although some videos bypass online censors, other protestors’ videos have been mysteriously, remotely removed from people’s phones.

The latest uprising raises questions about Xi’s attempt to assert power beyond his borders including in Taiwan. U.S. officials remain skeptical that Xi can achieve his goal of “uncontested dominance” in the region, The Washington Post said.

The Washington Post reported that concerns over Taiwan may be heightened by 2027, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It is a year Xi has set as a target for modernizing its military capabilities.

However, Pentagon officials were cautious not to imply a connection between the protests and China’s efforts to bolster its military. That date “is not a timeline for action,” said a senior U.S. defense official, who affirmed that the benchmarks China had set for itself to achieve by then are ambitious.

“We know what they want to accomplish, which is really to have more credible military capabilities for a Taiwan scenario,” this official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the new report before its release. “In terms of what they’ll be able to accomplish by 2027, I think that remains to be seen.”

The Pentagon believes that China’s new Taiwan strategy will consist of increasing missile launches, naval activity, and “centerline crossings” over the Taiwan Strait by Chinese military aircraft, according to The Washington Post.

Following Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this year, the official said that China had dramatically intensified these activities to unaccustomed levels.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he is dedicated to maintaining Taiwan’s status and warned his Chinese counterpart against taking disruptive actions.

Austin told the Chinese defense official that if measures taken by the Chinese military are designed to prevent Western powers from exercising their rights to freedom of navigation, they won’t work.

The report said China currently has 400 nuclear weapons, and its 135 ballistic missile tests in 2021 were “more than the rest of the world combined.” Other research has identified the construction of missile silos and other infrastructure to support the military’s expansion.

Still, China’s nuclear arsenal is far smaller than that of the United States, which possesses roughly 5,500 warheads. Russia has almost 6,000, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

The bolstering of China’s missile capabilities may force its leader to come to the arms control negotiating table. China’s failure to do so thus far is “negatively impacting global strategic stability — an area of increasing global concern,” the report stated.

The report also noted how China and Russia continue to hold joint exercises. Even though China has not given Russia military supplies for its war in Ukraine, it demonstrates that China still values Russian cooperation, Austin said.

The Pentagon report also provided a list of countries in which it believes China has “likely considered” establishing military logistics facilities. These countries include Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and the UAE.

If “military logistics facilities” also comprise universities, businesses, and the halls of Congress, the list would include the United States, where FBI director Christopher Wray said in 2020, “China is engaged in a highly sophisticated malign foreign influence campaign.”

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