U.S. Senators Demand DoD Release China Report
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI – Five influential U.S. Congressmen raised suspicions of White House interference in the delayed release of the Pentagon's annual report on China's military in a July 23 letter addressed to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The Congressional mandated report on the "Military Power of the People's Republic of China," is nearly five months late and the "lengthy delay is puzzling," said the letter signed by Republican Senators John Cornyn, John McCain, James Risch, Pat Roberts and James Inhofe.
The letter reminds Gates the "responsibility for this report lies with the DoD alone. We ask for your assurance that White House political appointees at the National Security Council or other agencies have not been allowed to alter the substance of the report in an effort to avoid the prospect of angering China."
"Anything less would risk undermining its very credibility."
The annual report, due March 1, has become a political football in relations with China, which angrily denounces each release. Analysts dissect the report each year looking for new clues about China's military modernization.
Observers point out that the annual report has been late on a number of occasions due to fears it would anger Beijing.
"In the past, it's been the case that a delayed or, in one year (2001), never published DoD report reflects the administration wanting to tone down the import of what DoD writes," said a defense analyst specializing on China.
This makes logical sense for a White House wanting better ties with China in the hopes it will cooperate on Iran and North Korea, the analyst said.
The letter raises suspicions the report is being held up for political reasons due to the fact that a "draft of the report was completed by the DoD several months ago."
Placating China does not seem to be bearing fruit. Military relations between the U.S. and China were canceled by Beijing after a January arms sale to Taiwan. The $6 billion package included Patriot PAC-3 air defense missile systems, Osprey-class mine hunting ships and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
A planned visit by Gates to China in June was canceled by Beijing without explanation, but most observers attribute the slight to the January arms deal.
A joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise in the Yellow Sea scheduled to begin July 25 has raised cackles from the state-controlled Chinese media. This despite the fact the exercises are a show of strength against North Korean aggression and not aimed at China.
Observers note that Chinese protests over U.S. naval exercises in the Yellow Sea appear to be an overall strategy of area denial.
The Congressional letter quotes a 2010 paper by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, "AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept," by Jan van Tol. China "appears to be purposefully developing and fielding operational military capabilities that challenge U.S. freedom of action in all domains – space, cyberspace, at sea and in the air."
The letter also makes use of comments by Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26.
"China's interest in a peaceful and stable environment that will support the country's developmental goals is difficult to reconcile with the evolving military capabilities that appear designed to challenge U.S. freedom of action in the region or exercise aggression or coercion of its neighbors, including U.S. treaty allies and partners," he said.