Spy Agencies Say China Is Expanding Its Military Forces and Ambitions

Obama's new intelligence chief Dennis Blair says Beijing's national security interests are broadening.

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China is upgrading and expanding its conventional military forces as well as its antisatellite missiles and its nuclear forces, the new Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told Congress. The hearing, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was an annual briefing about the current and future threats to the nation.

"We judge that China over the past several years has begun a substantially new phase in its military development by beginning to articulate roles and missions for the [the Chinese military] that go well beyond China's immediate territorial interests," Blair said in a written statement. "China's national security interests are broadening."

The expansion is both a positive and a worrying development for the United States. The expansion of the Chinese Navy, for instance, has included their participating in efforts against Somali pirates. Meanwhile, an expansion of conventional land forces may indicate a willingness to participate in peacekeeping operations, Blair said.

On the other hand, the annual threat assessment, which represents the consensus views of U.S. intelligence agencies, warns that China would increase its nuclear capabilities in the next 10 years. "Beijing seeks to modernize China's strategic forces in order to address concerns about the survivability of those systems in the face of foreign, particularly U.S., advances in strategic reconnaissance, precision strike, and missile defenses," Blair said in his statement.

On Taiwan, historically one of the thorniest issues between Beijing and Washington, Blair told the committee that the best strategy was "making sure that military measures are unattractive."

"Preparations for a possible Taiwan conflict continue to drive the modernization goals of the People's Liberation Army and the Chinese defense-industrial complex," he said. "It will likely remain the primary factor as long as the Taiwan situation is unresolved."