By FOSTER KLUG The Associated Press Thursday, March 16, 2006; 2:38 PM
WASHINGTON -- China's military buildup changes the delicate balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, forcing the United States to adapt its military strategies, a top Pentagon official said Thursday.
Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, said China has more than 700 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, with numbers increasing at about 100 missiles a year.
"When there are zero ballistic missiles opposite the Taiwan Strait, and a few years later there are 700, that's a change in the status quo," Rodman told reporters after testifying before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an advisory panel created by Congress. "Our job is to maintain a military balance in the region, and we take our responsibility seriously."
The United States opposes changes in the China-Taiwan relationship unless both sides agree to it, Rodman said. But, he testified, China's "military buildup changes that status quo and requires us to adapt to the new situation, as we are doing." He did not elaborate.
China's buildup is believed to be intended to back up threats to attack Taiwan, the self-ruled island that the communist Beijing government claims as its own territory. The two sides split in 1949 amid civil war.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China is open about its military spending and has increased military exchanges with other countries.
But Rodman said China has yet to explain a military budget with an average annual growth rate Beijing puts at nearly 16 percent from 1994 to 2004. China's reported 2006 military budget is about $35 billion.
These numbers, Rodman said, fail to capture what the Pentagon estimates is the true scope of the growth. He said the 2006 figure could be as much as $105 billion, making China Asia's largest defense spender.
China, Rodman added, has at least 10 varieties of ballistic missiles either deployed or in development, some of which could reach nearly the entire continental United States.
Rodman said China's "widespread use of denial and deception" on its security affairs make getting the truth difficult. "Absent greater openness, international reactions to China's military growth will understandably hedge against these unknowns."