U.S. report says rapidly modernizing Chinese military has set sights on Taiwan

Army members march to the flagpole during the flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square on New Years Day Jan. 1 2019 in Beijing China

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The report also says China's military expansion is driven by fear foreign powers may try to interfere with its ambition to take with Taiwan.

"China shifted funds and efforts to acquiring technology by any means available", the report read.

The senior United States defense intelligence official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not predict that China's military, known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA), would take such a step but said such a possibility was the top worry as China expands and modernizes its military capabilities. "Domestic laws forced foreign partners of Chinese-based joint ventures to release their technology in exchange for entry into China's lucrative market, and China has used other means to secure needed technology and expertise", Ashley said.

The People's Republic of China is "on the verge" of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world and is "continuing to strengthen" its military space capabilities - despite its public stance against the militarization of space, according to a Pentagon report. "In some areas, it already leads the world", the report said.

Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan at the end of the civil war in 1949 when the Communists took control of mainland China, but as the island has transformed into one of the region's most vibrant democracies it has become increasingly assertive of its own identity.

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"Beijing's anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the PLA to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection", the report stated.

Taiwan held live-fire exercises along its east coast on Thursday - the first since Chinese President Xi Jinping reasserted Beijing's willingness to use military force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.

The report said China's "robust, lethal force" could dominate "air, maritime, space and information domains" and undermine United States interest.

These include submarines, anti-ship and anti-air missiles. "And so the danger comes from them being present in more places at more times, and you always have to worry about potential for miscalculation, although I think we've seen, over the past several years, there have been close interactions between USA naval forces and the Chinese forces".

Last year, Taiwan's ruling party suffered a massive defeat in mid-term polls, causing Tsai to resign as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, while the main opposition Kuomintang, which oversaw an unprecedented thaw with Beijing before Tsai took office in 2016, made gains.

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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen refused to acknowledge a "one China" solution and said she will not back down, despite losing re-election to a more Beijing-friendly opponent.

While the report says China has increased its military footprint in the South China Sea and has placed additional military facilities on man-made islands there, the Pentagon assesses that China is seeking to avoid a conflict.

The official called such advancements "concerning", but concluded the Chinese military as a whole remained "a long way" from being in a position to truly challenge the USA military.

"They could order them to go today, but I don't think they're particularly confident in that capability", the official said.

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