The US will build new long-range weapons in a hedge against potential rivals like China, the major power best-placed to challenge US supremacy, the Pentagon said in a new strategic blueprint on Friday.
The plan would also boost US special forces by 15 percent to fight terrorism, create a military task force to thwart transfers of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and expand psychological warfare capabilities.
The Pentagon released the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review to outline its strategy for meeting anticipated security threats in the next 20 years.
It said the choices of "major and emerging powers," including India, Russia and China, would be key to the 21st century's international security environment.
"Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional US military advantages," the document said.
The report said China is likely to continue large investment in high-end, asymmetric military capabilities, emphasizing both electronic and cyber-warfare; counter-space operations; ballistic and cruise missiles; advanced integrated air defense systems; next-generation torpedoes; advanced submarines; strategic nuclear strike capabilities from modern, sophisticated land and sea-based systems; and theater unmanned aerial vehicles for employment by the Chinese military and for global export.
"The pace and scope of China's military build-up already puts [sic] regional military balances at risk," the report said.
It said the US would seek to encourage China to choose a path of peaceful economic growth and political liberalization, rather than military threat and intimidation.
But the US would defeat aggression if deterrence failed, the report said.
Referring to China's large territory and a lack of US bases in the area, the Pentagon said it places a premium on "forces capable of sustained operations at great distances."
The blueprint, unveiled before tomorrow's delivery to Congress of a 2007 defense budget request of US$439.3 billion, recommended a new long-range strike capability to be fielded by 2018 and modernizing the current bomber force.
The capability could include manned or unmanned bombers as well as directed-energy weapons such as lasers. The Air Force Air Combat Command began a yearlong analysis of options for such a capability in October.
The plan called for increasing the number of aircraft carriers in the Pacific to five or six and maintaining 60 percent of Navy submarines there, while doubling to two the number of attack submarines bought annually by 2012.