Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 1 News List

CIA head warns of China's military build-up

By Charles Snyder and Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTERS

This file photo dated Sept. 12 shows People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers walking by a display of Chinese missiles, on display at the PLA Aviation museum in the suburbs of Beijing. CIA director Porter Goss warned on Wednesday that China's military build-up could tilt the strategic balance with Taiwan and also threaten US forces in Asia.

PHOTO: AFP

The CIA is concerned that China's military build up could tilt the cross-strait military balance against Taiwan, and at the same time pose an increased threat to the US, the new CIA director, Porter Goss, told Congress Wednesday.

Goss also warned that Beijing is prepared to attack Taiwan if it feels the country's moves toward formal independence go too far.

Goss made his comments during an appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, in an annual report by the US intelligence agencies to Congress on the national security threats facing the US.

It was Goss' first appearance at the annual intelligence assessment session since becoming head of the CIA last September.

Before that, he sat on the other side of the congressional hearing table as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 1997, until he was chosen by US President George W. Bush to head the spy agency.

"Beijing's military modernization and military build-up could tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait," Goss told the lawmakers. "Improved Chinese capabilities threaten US forces in the region."

Goss noted that last year China increased its ballistic missile forces 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 regional conflict," he warned.

On Taiwan's recent political developments, Goss pointed to the nation's planned constitutional reforms 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 exceeds Beijing's tolerance, we assess China is prepared to respond with varying levels of force," Goss told the senators.

On a broader level, China is increasingly confident and active on the international stage to secure a stronger voice in major international issues, countering what it sees as US efforts to counter and encircle it, and securing access to natural resources, Goss said.

He also pointed to a number of domestic challenges that President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) faces.

In response to Goss' report, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said that the threat that China's military build-up posed for the region was inevitable.

"We haven't seen the entire text of the CIA's report, but from our ongoing exchange of opinions with the US, it's clear that China poses a threat to the entire region, including Japan, South Korea and, of course, Taiwan," MAC Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) told the Taipei Times yesterday.

While Chiu refrained from commenting on whether the recent string of events could be interpreted as the US' response in opposition to China's proposed anti-secession bill, he remarked that the bill clearly ran counter to the US' stance on the matter.

"Neither China's military buildup nor its anti-secession law meets the US' requirements," Chiu said, explaining that the US wanted to see peaceful settlement between Taiwan and China, and as such opposed any moves to unilaterally change the status quo.

"Under these circumstances, the US will naturally be concerned about the law and opposed to it as well," Chiu said.

A senior government official said, however, that the US could not oppose Beijing's legislation now, as the bill's exact text had yet to be disclosed.

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