Fri, Jun 10, 2005 - Page 1 News List

US intelligence `missed' PLA advances

AFP , WASHINGTON

A People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier crawls through a fire tunnel during a drill in Jinan, Shandong Province, on June 1. The 2.5-million-strong PLA has received double-digit increases to its official budget in recent years as China steps up efforts to modernize its military.

PHOTO: AP

A highly classified report said US intelligence agencies had failed to recognize more than a dozen key military developments in China in the past decade, the Washington Times said yesterday.

The report, drawn up by current and former intelligence officials, blames Chinese secrecy for part of the failures, but also US intelligence agents for not gathering solid information on the Chinese military and for not planting agents in the communist government, officials familiar with the report told the daily.

The study, parts of which will be included in the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on the Chinese military to be released later this month, highlighted failures to notice the following aspects of China's military buildup:

* The development of a new long-range cruise missile, and of a new warship equipped with a stolen Chinese version of the US AEGIS battle management technology.

* The deployment of a new attack submarine known as the Yuan class; of precision-guided munitions, including new air-to-ground missiles and new, more accurate warheads; and of surface-to-surface missiles.

* The importation of advanced weaponry, including Russian submarines, warships and fighter-bombers.

The secret report, produced for the new director of national intellingence, John Negroponte, appears to unfairly target intelligence operators, its critics said, and to exonerate intelligence analysts, who for the past 10 years dismissed or played down intelligence on China's military buildup.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during an annual international security conference in Singapore on Saturday, said China appeared to be expanding its missile forces, "allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world."

"China also is improving its ability to project power, and is developing advanced systems of military technology," he said.

"Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: why this growing investment? Why these continuing large weapons purchases?"

He said the soon-to-be-released Pentagon study concludes that China's defense budget is now the largest in Asia and the third-largest in the world.

China's foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao (劉建超), on Tuesday rejected Rumsfeld's claims as "totally groundless," saying that the small increases in defense spending in recent years was dedicated mostly to "the improvement of the living conditions of the officers and soldiers."

"China has not the intention nor the capability to drastically increase its military buildup," Liu said.

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