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CHINA THREAT RISING?

"A decade ago, American military planners dismissed the threat of a Chinese attack against Taiwan as a 100-mile infantry swim," the New York Times says. "The Pentagon now believes that China has purchased or built enough amphibious assault ships, submarines, fighter jets and short-range missiles to pose an immediate threat to Taiwan and to any American force that might come to Taiwan's aid."

china_sub.jpgIn 1996, when China fired warning-shot missiles across the Taiwan Strait before the Taiwanese elections, President Clinton responded by sending a carrier battle group to a position near Taiwan. Then, China could do nothing about it, Now, analysts say, it can.In fact, American carriers responding to a crisis would now initially have to operate at least 500 miles from Taiwan, which would reduce the number of fighter sorties they could launch. This is because China now has a modern fleet of submarines, including new Russian-made nuclear subs that can fire missiles from a submerged position. America would first need to subdue these submarines.China launched 13 attack submarines between 2002 and 2004, a period when it also built 23 ships that can ferry tanks, armored vehicles and troops across the 100-mile strait. Tomohide Murai, an expert on the Chinese military at the National Defense Academy in Tokyo, said that China's buildup is intended to focus on an American response, but he is skeptical that China already has the naval and air superiority over Taiwan to dominate the strait.
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