Washington, Oct. 4 (CNA) China's military is posing a growing threat to Taiwan because of improved capabilities to execute a military action against the island, the Heritage Foundation has said in an annual report analyzing the United States' military strength.
The 2019 Index of U.S. Military Strength, published by the Washington-based conservative think tank Thursday, warned of China's growing military might in its chapter highlighting threats to the U.S.'s vital interests.
It describes China's longstanding threat to end Taiwan's de facto independence and ultimately to bring it under Beijing's authority -- if necessary, by force -- as both a threat to a major American security partner and a threat to the American interest in peace and stability in the Western Pacific.
The 494-page report described Taiwan as an "essential part of the People's Liberation Army's 'new historic missions,' shaping PLA acquisitions and military planning."
That's because for the Chinese leadership, the failure to effect unification, whether peacefully or through the use of force, would reflect fundamental political weakness in the People's Republic of China (PRC).
"Two decades of double-digit increases in China's announced defense budget have produced a significantly more modern PLA, much of which remains focused on a Taiwan contingency," the report said.
The modernized force includes more than 1,000 ballistic missiles, a modernized air force, and growing numbers of modern surface combatants and diesel-electric submarines capable of mounting a blockade.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have risen since May 2016 when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won both the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, with Beijing ramping up efforts to pressure and suppress Taiwan in the international arena.
Over the last year in particular, China has sought to intimidate Taiwan with a growing number of military exercises, including live-fire drills and bomber flights around the island, the report said.
"In the absence of a strong American presence, it might be willing to go farther than this," it said.
The report also said Chinese efforts to reclaim Taiwan are not limited to overt military means.
The PRC employs political warfare methods called the "three warfares" -- legal warfare, public opinion warfare, and psychological warfare -- to undermine both Taiwan's will to resist and America's willingness to support Taiwan.
The Chinese goal is to "win without fighting," to take Taiwan without firing a shot or with only minimal resistance before the U.S. can organize an effective response, the report said.
It concluded that the Chinese threat to Taiwan is a longstanding one, and that China's ability to execute a military action against Taiwan, albeit at high economic, political, and military cost, is improving.
The report, meanwhile, singled out China and Russia as the most worrisome threats to U.S. interests over the past year, "both because of the ongoing modernization and expansion of their offensive military capabilities and because of the more enduring effect they are having within their respective regions."
Citing a warning from outgoing Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris, the report said the U.S. is in danger of losing the next arms race with China, amid China's heavy investment in the next wave of military technologies, including hypersonic missiles, advanced space and cyber capabilities, and artificial intelligence.
The Heritage Foundation has published the Index of U.S. Military Strength annually since 2015. It gauges the ability of the U.S. military to perform its missions in today's world and assesses how the condition of the military has changed from the preceding year.
It is regarded as the only non-governmental and only annual assessment of U.S. military strength.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel