Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 1 News List

China threat played down

NATIONAL DEFENSE A report by the Council on Foreign Relations said that the US would win any war with China over Taiwan despite the PLA's advances

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Despite China's growing economic power, the US would ultimately prevail in any conflict over Taiwan, according to a report released Thursday by the Council on Foreign Relations in the US.

The report also says that China is far from becoming a global military power and is at least two decades behind the US in military technology and capability.

While China has the world's largest standing army and continues to acquire advanced weapons systems, the report said China did not have enough advanced equipment to rival the US.

"There is a significant group of people out there who say that China is going to be a military superpower and it will be an adversary to the United States. And it may well turn out that way, but not in the near future," said Harold Brown, who was defense secretary under president Jimmy Carter and who served on the task force that drafted the report. Other members included John Deutch, a former CIA director; and Thomas Foley, a former speaker of the House of Representatives.

In recent years, some military experts have warned that China poses an imminent threat to the sovereignty of Taiwan. Those experts fear that the US is underestimating China's military strength and its resolve to reunite Taiwan with China, possibly through a surprise military attack.

The report took issue with those theories, saying that even though China has become a center for software and semiconductor research and its acquisition of advanced weapons systems should not be underestimated, the US clearly has superior air, naval and technological power. It added that this military lead could last for decades.

The task force also said it was unlikely that China would attack Taiwan. The Chinese military buildup, the task force said, was more likely a way to coerce Taiwan into negotiating a reunification.

Many military experts believe that China is seeking to dominate the region. They say China spends an estimated US$60 billion a year on its military, second only to the US.

Some experts want the US to help strengthen Taiwan's military, and to be prepared for a defense or rescue mission.

Richard Fisher Jr., a visiting fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, also said the report missed the point on Taiwan.

"The basic purpose of the report is to convey that there is not yet enough Chinese power to threaten American security interests at this time. But China doesn't need American-level military technology to beat us to the punch in Taiwan."

Members of the task force, however, said their findings were not cause for alarm and called for a calmer, more judicious response, because China does not yet appear to be capable of matching US military might.

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