Secretary of Defense designate Robert Gates had his first day of hearings today before a Senate panel. While most of the focus was on his comments about Iraq it is what he said about China's role in Asia that caught my attention. Here is a transcript:
Question: What do you believe are China's political-military objectives regarding Taiwan, the Asia-Pacific region, and globally?
I believe China seeks to integrate Taiwan peacefully if possible. That is their policy but their capabilities suggest they are prepared to consider the use of force if peaceful efforts fail.
Beyond Taiwan, China aspires to be the pre-eminent power in Asia. Beijing is expanding its political and economic influence in the region and generating options for military coercion.
Question: What do you believe are the objectives of China's military modernization program (including its nuclear weapons program)?
It appears to me that China is building capabilities to fight short duration, high-intensity conflict on its periphery. Its near-term focus is on generating sufficient combat power to rapidly erode Taiwan's will to resist and to deter or deny effective intervention in a crossStrait conflict.
China is also strengthening its deterrent posture through modernization of its strategic forces. Its "no first use" policy appears intact, but the shift to survivable, mobile nuclear forces gives China's leaders new options for coercion or first use in crises.
China's desire to remove American influence from Asia is a long-held strategic goal. It moves relentlessly forward through many methods to dominate Asia, remove American influence and restore its ancient belief that it is the primary power at the center of the earth.
We covered some of China's intent in this article last month in World News and Prophecy.