China's growing military and economic strength is shifting the cross-strait balance in Beijing's favor, making it increasingly important for Taiwan to boost its own defenses "with a sense of urgency," the US Department of Defense warned on Tuesday.
In its annual report to Congress on China's military strength, the Pentagon also noted that China was increasingly using what the report called "legal warfare" to shift international opinion and deflect through legal arguments international criticism of any moves toward Chinese military action in the Taiwan Strait.
The report puts the number of Chinese ballistic missiles facing Taiwan at 710 to 790, and estimates that China is adding some 100 such missiles annually, a pace that is accelerating, with newer versions featuring improved range and accuracy.
"In the near term, China's military build-up appears focused on preparing for Taiwan Strait contingencies, including the possibility of US intervention," the report says, adding that "China deploys its most advanced systems to the military regions directly opposite Taiwan."
"Beijing's sustained military buildup in the area of the Taiwan Strait risks disrupting the status quo," the report says, stopping short of comments by US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter Rodman, who in March labeled the rapid missile buildup as "a change in the status quo."
"The PLA [People's Liberation Army] is developing capabilities that will enable it to pursue several course of action against Taiwan, allowing Beijing to apply pressure more flexibly against the island and, it believes, minimize the risk of confrontation with the United States," the report says.
It lists a number of possibilities, ranging from coercion against Taiwanese businesspeople living in China and electronic attacks against Taiwanese infrastructure, to surprise air and missile attacks and blockades, as well as attempts at an amphibious invasion.
The report devotes extensive attention to China's advances in deploying missiles and other weaponry intended to fend off intervention by third parties in case of an attack on Taiwan. It does not specify what impact this would have on US intervention against an attack on Taiwan.
China has already received the first of two Russian Sovremenny II guided missile destroyers, with the second expected by the end of this year or next year, the report says. The destroyers are fitted with advanced anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and sophisticated wide-area air defense systems, the report notes.
China's Song-class diesel submarines are in production, and have been designed to carry an anti-ship cruise missile that can be fired underwater. In addition, a new Yuan-class submarine is entering the fleet, and China is getting eight more Kilo-class diesel subs from Russia with supersonic ASCMs and advanced torpedoes.
Last year, China launched its newest ship, a Luzhou-class guided missile destroyer designed for anti-`air warfare, which doubles the range of current such systems, the report says.
In addition, the first battalion of a new Russian S-300 PMU-2 air defense system is expected to arrive this year. It has an intercept range of 200km, which provides "increased lethality against tactical ballistic missiles and more effective electronic counter measures."