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Pentagon Ordered to Better Track Threats to Taiwan

Several members of Congress have added language to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act aimed at better preparing the Pentagon to assess and confront Chinese military expansion and its implications for potential threats to Taiwan.

The language, incorporated into the House Armed Services Committee's passed version of the defense bill, asks the Defense Department to better assess anti-access/area-denial threats in the Asia-Pacific region, submit a report on the cross-strait balance of forces between China and Taiwan, and better estimate China's fast-growing Naval military power.

Proposed by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, chairman of the HASC Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, the new language asks the Pentagon to add additional detail regarding Chinese Naval capability to its annual report to Congress on Chinese military capability.

China's stance on reunification with Taiwan and increasing assertiveness regarding territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea have commanded interest from Pentagon officials and concerned lawmakers for quite some time.

Perhaps with this in mind, the Congressional amendment also asks the Defense Department to submit a special report on the cross-strait balance of forces between China and Taiwan, citing a specific growing threat to Taiwan from the rapidly modernizing Chinese military.

Along these lines, a recently released Pentagon report on China specifically cites the Chinese threat to Taiwan in light of Chinas stepped-up Naval modernization and development of long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.

"They (China) are preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan strait, which includes deterring or defeating third party intervention. That remains the focus and primary driver of much of China's military investment," a senior Defense official said following the release of the Pentagon report on China in June.

China's deployment of short-range ballistic missiles across from Taiwan has continued to grow substantially over the past year, he added. China now has more than 1,000 short range missiles deployed across from Taiwan, the senior official said.

"We highlight and note in this report that those deployments continue. Not only do we see and view missile moving into those areas but they are upgrading and improving the missiles that were there," he said. "Our policy on Taiwan is clear and consistent - we continue to remain committed to support and provide defense articles and services to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."

Nevertheless, the new Congressional language asks the Pentagon to go further and seek outside evaluations of the capabilities of potential adversaries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as China, with a particular mind to A2/AD threats. The Anti-Access/Area Denial term is Pentagon language used to describe the technological advances of potential adversaries in areas such as sensors, long-range guided ballistic missiles, UAS and unmanned systems.

China's defense spending continues to grow, jumping an average of 9.4 percent per year between 2004 and 2013, according to the report. In March of 2013, China announced an annual military budget of $119.5 billion, a 5.7 percent increase.

Overall, the report details a comprehensive Chinese military modernization strategy which spans a wide range of areas including investments in advanced medium range conventional ballistic missiles, integrated air defenses, long range land attack and anti-ship cruise missile, counter-space weapons and offensive cyber capabilities.

The report also details Chinese investments in advanced aircraft, submarines and surface combatants including aircraft carriers. The first long-range deployment of China's lone aircraft carrier, the LIAONING, marked a significant milestone in Chinese military development and modernization during this past year, the report states.

The carrier, which entered service in September 2012, conducted operations in the East China Sea and South China Sea in November of last year, according to the report. The report also specifies that a land-based Chinese fighter jet, the J-15, successfully flew from the deck of the LIAONING in September of last year.

The Congressional language also requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress with a 10-year outlook for munitions that will be necessary to achieve U.S. security objectives in the Asia-Pacific region.

Also, the amendment asks for the Pentagon to maintain and strengthen existing security alliances and cooperation with Japan and South Korea. Along these lines, the Congressional language also asks Secretary Hagel to submit an assessment that looks for new opportunities to collaborate with Japan and South Korea on missile defense and look for new technologies to improve short-range missile, rocket and artillery defenses.

Perhaps with a mind to the value of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR and what's referred to as the tyranny of distance or vast geographical expanse of the Pacific, the new Congressional amendment also directs the Secretary of Defense to look into the potential benefits of forming an unmanned systems office.

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