Tue, Dec 28, 2004 - Page 3 News List

PRC issues defense white paper

BALANCE OF POWER Beijing sees Taiwan as the first of a number of threats to its 'sovereignty and territorial integrity'; a new white paper says technology is the key


China, home to the world's largest standing army, said yesterday that it would modernize its military to better face down threats from an independence-minded Taiwan and an increase in global uncertainty.

"New changes are occurring in the balance of power among the major international players," China's State Council said in a 100-page white paper on the nation's military. "However, a fair and rational new international political and economic order is yet to be established."

As the balance of power shifts, China is stepping up efforts to make its 2.5 million troops more effective, flexible and able to adapt to a high-tech world, it said.

A key goal is "transforming the military from a manpower-intensive one to a technology-intensive one," it said.

China has long expressed its intention to acquire high-tech capabilities, upgrade its weaponry and improve training to help bring its troops -- believed by many experts to lag far behind those of major Western nations -- into the 21st century.

Biggest Threat

The paper called pro-independence activities in Taiwan "the biggest immediate threat to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

It also criticized the US for selling arms to Taiwan.

"The US action does not serve a stable situation across the Taiwan Strait," it said.

The paper noted what it called US efforts to beef up its military presence in east Asia "by buttressing military alliances and accelerating development of missile defense systems."

This, coupled with Japan's moves to give its military a broader mandate and develop missile defenses, show that "complicated security factors in the Asia-Pacific region are on the increase," it said.

But the paper did not say what China would do specifically in response to those perceived expansions other than modernizing its military overall.

China has spent billions of dollars in recent years on Russian and other foreign weapons technology. It has also been pressuring the EU to end an arms embargo imposed after Beijing's bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Poor Record

Germany and France, eager to sell to China's massive military, want to see the ban lifted.

But other European governments have refused to lift the ban, citing Beijing's poor human-rights record in their defense.

China is also more involved in UN peacekeeping and international efforts to fight terrorism, and its military "learns from and draws on the valuable experience of foreign armed forces," the paper said.

China is currently part of UN missions in Liberia and Congo and has held anti-terror exercises this year with Pakistan and Russia.

National Prestige

The white paper noted that China is seeking more civilian uses for its military technology, such as in its space program -- a project that carries enormous national prestige.

China last year sent its first person into space, becoming only the third country to launch its own manned mission after Russia and the US.

The white paper reiterated plans, first announced last year, to trim China's military by 200,000 troops to 2.3 million by the end of next year.

Doing so would compress the chain of command and make the army more responsive, the paper said.

China also wants to strengthen its naval, air force and missile-launching capabilities, it said.

The nation's defense budget this year was 211.7 billion yuan (US$25.6 billion), it said, an increase of 11 percent over last year.

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