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Lawmakers Say Build More Killer Subs To Counter China

The United States Navy is building too few attacks subs needed to counter an aggressive Chinese effort to beef up its navy, members from both sides of the partisan aisle said today.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, led the charge for more subs. The Chinese are building 3.4 attacks subs for every one the U.S. Navy is building. If you include the Russian subs that China is buying that ratio, Hunter said, worsens to 5-1. The Pentagon should be shifting money to build more Virginia-class submarines, asking the witnesses if they didn't think the needs to "make substnatial changes" in its procurement decision to address the growing Chinese Navy.

Hunter was joined by Rep.  Joseph Courtney (D-Conn.), a fervent supporter of the Virginia class which supplies many voters in his district with jobs and family income.  Courtney cited the Chinese success in surfacing completely undetected an attack sub within weapons range of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier  as proof of the increasing capabilities of the Chinese navy and of the need for more US subs.

Aside from the push for more subs, the most telling result of the hearing was the distinct change in tone -- if not in substance -- from earlier hearings when then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in charge.

The two administration witnesses, James Shinn, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Maj. Gen. Philip Breedlove, vice director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a point of praising recent Chinese moves toward greater transparency, citing the recent activiation of a hotline between US and Chinese military leaders and the first regular talks between Chinese and US military officials on nuclear issues held in April. Holding out the promise of better relations with China if the growing Asian giant conforms with basic international agreements and norms, Shinn and Breedlove said in their joint statement that they aimed to use "a policy of constructive engagement" so that when the interest of the US and China do overlapthat becomes "opportunities for cooperation with the Chinese, rather than points of conflict."

Shinn and Breedlove made clear there are areas where the US would like to see China change its ways, such as when arms sales by Chinese commercial companies violate UN sanctions and Chinese law but no action is taken against the company. They mentioned sales of weapons-related materials and technologies to Burma, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Sudan and Syria.

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