China’s military has expanded its bomber operations in recent years while “likely training for strikes” against the United States and its allies, a Pentagon report said.
The assessment, which comes at a time of heightened US-China tensions over trade, was contained in an annual report that highlighted China’s efforts to increase its global influence, with defense spending that the Pentagon estimates exceeded US$190 billion in 2017, Reuters said.
“Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said, using an acronym for China’s People’s Liberation Army.
The report said that while the PLA had continued to extend operations, it was not clear what message Beijing was seeking to send by carrying out the flights “beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities”.
This year China’s air force landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region.
The Pentagon report said that despite a projected slowdown in economic growth, China’s official defense budget would be more than US$240 billion by 2028.
It also said China’s space program was progressing rapidly.
“The PLA continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the militarization of space,” the report said.
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