Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US upgrading its forces with a wary eye on China

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US is equipping its forces for high tech expeditionary warfare, in part as a hedge against the uncertainties posed by China's military buildup, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.

"It is US policy to encourage China to emerge as a responsible international partner," said Bryan Whitman. "However, there is also a lack of transparency and some uncertainty surrounding China's future path."

"Therefore, we and others have to naturally hedge against the unknown," he told reporters here.

His comments came as Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was at the White House to meet with President George W. Bush on a range of trade and security issues, and to assure US leaders they have nothing to fear from China's rising might.

His visit is playing out against a backdrop of US concern about China's intentions as it pursues a major military buildup that the Pentagon believes threatens the military balance in region.

The US also has been modernizing and reorienting its military forces in recent years, shifting its weight from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region and south Asia.

It has revamped its military alliance with Japan, and moved to strengthen military ties with India and countries in southeast and central Asia.

Guam is being transformed into a hub for long range bombers, intelligence and surveillance aircraft, and logistics support. The military plans to move 8,000 marines to Guam from Okinawa by 2012.

The US Navy is adding a sixth aircraft carrier to the Pacific Fleet and has decided to home port 52 attack submarines -- 60 percent of its fleet -- in the Pacific theater by 2010.

The navy also is changing the way it maintains and mans its warships to be able to deploy four aircraft carrier battle groups in the Pacific at a time.

Billions of dollars are being invested to acquire costly F-22 fighter aircraft capable of cruising at supersonic speeds and develop a new long range bomber, all with an eye on China.

"We're looking at changing from being a garrison military to being a globally expeditionary force, shifting the strategic balance, enabling the military to be more agile across the spectrum of challenges that exist out there," Whitman said.

"So DoD [Department of Defense] continues to prepare for unforeseen eventualities, from full spectrum combat operations to counter-insurgency operations, stability operations, and homeland defense while creating the best structure to train and equip forces for those missions," he said.

Pentagon and US military officials in the past have insisted that the US military realignment was not directed at any specific country, or aimed at containing China.

But Whitman's acknowledgement that the changes were a "hedge" against China indicates Washington is opting for a more candid approach in spelling out the consequences of Beijing's military buildup.

The change in tone began last June when US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned at a international security conference in Singapore that China was spending much more on its military than officially acknowledged.

"Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: why this growing investment?" Rumsfeld asked.

A major Pentagon strategy review made public in February singled out China as having "the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies."

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