China is 'rapidly' expanding bomber training, probably for United States strikes - Pentagon

China's new multi-role fighter jet J-10C

China's new multi-role fighter jet J-10C

The report suggests that China's air force has been training for strikes on US military targets, as well as those of allies in the Pacific region, and it also includes a detailed assessment of China's military prospects with regard to conquering Taiwan.

China's military budget for 2017 was about US$190 billion (S$260 billion), according to the report, far behind the Pentagon's annual budget of about US$700 billion.

The China Securities Journal - a Chinese state-run financial newspaper - said in 2016 that China could build as many as 20 floating nuclear plants to "speed up the commercial development" of the South China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported a year ago.

"Over the last three years, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against USA and allied targets", notes the report.

The report noted that these flights could be "used as a strategic signal to regional states", but the PLA hasn't been clear about "what messages such flights communicate beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities".

The PLA may demonstrate the "capability to strike United States and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam", the report says.

"The objective of these reforms is to create a more mobile, modular, lethal ground force capable of being the core of joint operations and able to meet Xi Jinping's directive to 'fight and win wars, '" the Pentagon report notes.

"The objective of these reforms is to create a more mobile, modular, lethal ground force capable of being the core of joint operations", the report says.

The executive summary of the report warns that China and the PLA forces continue to pose a serious threat to Taiwan, noting that Beijing has never renounced the use of force. China has reclaimed 3,200 of acres of land in the Spratly Island chain and added with ports, runways and other military infrastructure.

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It also says that China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers, saying the Chinese air force "has been re-assigned a nuclear mission".

The US regularly seeks to demonstrate freedom of navigation with flights over the South China Sea, much of which is claimed by China, and a number of other nations.

Last year, PLA bombers flew a dozen operational flights through the Sea of Japan, into the Western Pacific, around Taiwan, and over the East and South China Sea - all potential flashpoints.

Media captionHow US defence spending plan compares to allies and rivals.

The US is watching these developments closely, as the Pentagon believes that "great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security", as Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis explained earlier this year.

China's defence spending exceeded $190bn in 2017 as the one-party socialist republic seeks to project military power on the global stage, the report said.

The report recognizes that it is crucial for China to maintain regional stability at present, since its own economic growth is crucial for its military modernization program and its strategies of political coercion over neighboring countries.

Tensions also continue in the non-military sphere. Starting with the U.S., which objects to its growing trade deficit with China, both sides have announced tariffs on a range of each others' goods.

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