WASHINGTON — China continues to rapidly modernize and expand its military and has deployed an anti-ship missile that could attack vessels more than 1,500 kilometers away, according to a new Pentagon report.
The Pentagon’s annual assessment on the growth of China’s military also said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is likely behind attacks on US computer networks.
“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” said the report, which was released on Monday.
The administration has been more public about cyber attacks from China in recent months, starting with Thomas Donilon, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, naming China in a March speech and culminating in high-level military talks at the end of April.
By committing to paper the notion that China, and specifically the Chinese military, is behind some of these cyber intrusions, the report continues the pressure on China to negotiate a solution to the escalating problem.
China’s military budget continues to grow. In March, China announced an annual military budget of $114 billion, a 10.7 percent increase. Between 2003 and 2012, Beijing’s budget grew an average of 9.7 percent each year.
But DoD projects China is spending much more on defense than it discloses. In 2012, the DoD estimates China spent between $135 billion and $215 billion on military-related expenditures.
Growth in Chinese military spending is getting extra attention as part of the Pentagon’s effort to place a greater focus on the Asia-Pacific region following a decade of conducting counterinsurgency missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The PLA continued its naval and aircraft advancements in 2012.
China commissioned its first aircraft carrier in September 2012 and conducted its first launch and recovery of a fighter aircraft in November.
“We anticipate that China will spend the next three to four years on training and integration before achieving an operationally effective aircraft carrier capability,” David Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said Monday during a briefing at the Pentagon. “China will likely build several indigenous aircraft carriers over the next 15 years.”
The Pentagon report acknowledged China is deploying an anti-ship missile — know as the DF-21D — with a range of more than 1,500 kilometers, giving “PLA the capability to attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean.”
In addition, the PLA has continued development of stealth fighter aircraft, but its first fifth-generation jet is not expected to enter service before 2018. One development challenge is building high-performance jet engines, according to the report.
“While the true intentions of China’s rise remain unknown, we can certainly draw conclusions about its designs for the region based on the military capabilities it has acquired,” Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said in a statement. “This report confirms that these capabilities are directly aimed at undermining the balance of power in the region in an effort to slowly exclude the United States and allow China to intimidate its Asia-Pacific neighbors.”
Zachary Fryer-Biggs contributed to this report.