Pentagon warns China training for strikes on United States targets

China's new multi-role fighter jet J-10C

The suggestion is contained in a report that says China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently expanded its bomber operations.

"China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations; development reportedly is to begin prior to 2020".

According to Thursday's report, China is working on a "stealthy, long-range strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability that could be operational within the next 10 years", in addition to the bombers it already operates.

In January the Pentagon put countering Beijing, along with Russian Federation, at the centre of a new national defence strategy.

"Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets", it added.

Most specifically, the agency is concerned about China's growing influence in the South China Sea.

One of the arguments in favour of developing such a force is that American rivals like China appear increasingly ready to strike USA space-based capabilities in the event of a conflict.

The new report said that China's space program "continues to mature rapidly" and is also developing counterspace capabilities to "degrade and deny adversary use of space-based assets during a crisis or conflict".

In May, China landed a long-range nuclear-capable bomber on an island in the disputed South China Sea, a move that raised tensions in the region due to a prior commitment by China not to militarize the area.

China's military budget for 2017 was about US$190 billion (S$260 billion), according to the report, far behind the Pentagon's annual budget of about US$700 billion. China has reclaimed 3,200 of acres of land in the Spratly Island chain and added with ports, runways and other military infrastructure.

The document also warns that China "is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with China by force".

This year's report also claims that China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers, saying the Chinese air force "has been re-assigned a nuclear mission".

It says: "Should the United States intervene, China would try to delay effective intervention and seek victory in a high-intensity, limited war of short duration".

Donal Trump's top economic advisor has warned China not to underestimate the USA leader's resolve to win the ever-escalating trade war between the world's two largest economies.

Another flashpoint is Taiwan, which is seen by China as a breakaway province.

Titled, "U.S. report on China's military reveals its guilty conscience", the editorial states, "The U.S.' technical analysis of the PLA capability is one thing, the Pentagon's publication of the analysis to hype the "China threat" is another".

But in June, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis became the first head of the Pentagon to visit China since 2014.

The US, of course, wants India firmly in its corner, whether it is by forging a quadrilateral along with Japan and Australia to counter an aggressive China in the Indo-Pacific region, or by weaning India away from buying Russian weapons.

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