A senior US defense official has accused China of changing the "status quo" in the Taiwan Strait by its missile buildup aimed at Taiwan, a situation that is forcing Washington to devise new ways to deal with the danger of a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
The official, Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, also pointed out that the US has developed improved defense relationships with a horseshoe-shaped ring of Asian nations around China that might come into play if China attacks Taiwan.
He made his comments in testimony at a hearing on China's military modernization conducted by the US Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressionally established investigative body, in Washington on Thursday.
While administration officials from US President George W. Bush down have long warned against unilateral changes to the "status quo" by either side of the Strait, this is believed to be the most direct assertion by a senior official in an open, official forum that China has unilaterally changed the "status quo."
In his testimony, Rodman ticked off a wide range of advanced weaponry that Beijing has acquired in recent years, much of it aimed at Taiwan, that has altered the military equation in the Strait, and has required new thinking by the US.
"Our will to meet our security commitments remain firm. This shows both that PLA [People's Liberation Army] modernization affects our strategic calculus for Taiwan Strait security and that a prudent hedging policy is essential," Rodman said.
"US policy opposes unilateral changes in the Taiwan Strait status quo by either party. The PLA military build-up changes that status quo and requires us to adapt to the new situation, as we are doing," Rodman said.
Afterwards, asked by reporters, Rodman pointed to the Chinese missile buildup across from Taiwan: "When you go from zero missiles opposite [Taiwan in] the Taiwan Strait, and a few years later there are 700, that's a change in the status quo."
When asked how the US is responding, Rodman said "Our job is to maintain a military balance in the region and we take our responsibility seriously."
"We have commitments to many friends and allies and obviously its our duty to make sure we're in a position to carry out those commitments," he added.
Rodman declined to be specific on revisions in US strategy to deal with the situation.
"It's a continuing process. It's our duty to be prepared for possible situations. I don't see this as an issue of alarm, it's an issue of prudence and what one would expect us to be doing," he said.
In response to a question at the hearing by a commission member to explain US "hedging policy," Rodman said, "it means being realistic about the risks of a Taiwan contingency and being prepared for that. It means keeping an eye on what they're doing and being ready to deal with it if the worst case should happen."
Rodman then added, "It means collaborating with allies." He said that over the past several years "our defense relations with a number of other countries in the region have improved, because other countries have the same reaction we do to China's rise."
In pointing to specific Chinese weapons acquisitions, Rodman mentioned Beijing's acquisition of five modern submarines, 10 new varieties of ballistic missiles with enhanced targeting capabilities, anti-ship cruise missiles and expeditionary warfare, including amphibious lift acquisitions.
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