Defense Secretary Jim Mattis should “stop releasing” assessments of China’s military, the Communist power said in response to a new Pentagon report on the regime’s air force.
“We call on the U.S. to abandon its Cold War mentality, regard China’s defense and military construction in an objective and rational way,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement carried by Global Times, a state-run outlet. “We also request that the US stops releasing the related reports and safeguards the stable development of the two countries’ military with real actions.”
China has modernized its bomber capabilities and conducted exercises “likely training for strikes,” the Defense Department announced Friday. That activity has escalated in recent years, according to the Pentagon analysis, dovetailing with China’s militarization of artificial islands claimed for itself in the South China Sea.
“Over the last three years, the [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets,” according to the annual U.S. report on China’s military.
That statement is an attempt to provoke China, an expert affiliated with the Communist military maintained. “It aims to treat China as an imaginary enemy and creates a confrontation between China and the U.S.,” senior research fellow Zhang Junshe told the Global Times, an outlet identified with China’s more hawkish national security voices. “Actually, China’s defense policies are defensive in nature.”
But the “overwater” bomber operations include landing aircraft on the Spratly Islands, a series of reefs near the Philippines that China expanded while claiming sovereignty over some of the most vital shipping lanes in the world.
“The PLA has long been developing air strike capabilities to engage targets as far away from China as possible,” the U.S. report said. “[The bombers] could, if deployed to airfields in the Spratly Islands, extend their range through the Balabac Strait into the Celebes Sea or through the Sunday or Malacca Strait to fly into the Indian Ocean.”
Some U.S. analysts expect China to back up its claim of sovereignty with military power.
“Sometime in the next few years, in which the Chinese are probably gonna send a Philippine Coast Guard or Navy vessel to the bottom of the South China Sea,” Gregory Poling, a regional expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in February. “And then either the U.S. responds, as we are legally and morally bound to do, or we don’t … If the Chinese get their way, then one of, if not the most universally accepted pieces of international law that we have had over the 20th century, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, will be a dead letter.”
That’s fear-mongering, per the Chinese side. “Zhang noted that if a country has no intention to invade China, it will not feel uneasy about China’s expansion of maritime defense operations,” Global Times noted.