A new Japanese defense White Paper sounds a warning that China is building far more military forces than it would need for self-defense. Key points:
@ China has increased its defense spending by 10% every year for 13 years.
@ China has announced plans to boost defense spending by 17% this year.
@ China has increased intelligence-gathering patrols near Japan and Taiwan.
@ China has steadily added to its arsenal of ballistic missiles.
@ China has successfully built a blue-water navy of destroyers and is now seeking larger vessels.
@ Chinese leaders speak openly of a "high technology local war" which everyone assumes would be against Taiwan, but the forces in question could also threaten the Spratly Islands or even Japan itself.
@ The US will all but certainly help Taiwan arm to resist Chinese pressure, touching off an arms race between Taiwan and China. Chinese efforts to win this arms race would involve building forces that could just as easily threaten Japan.
Japanese intelligence cites China as having 1.7 million troops in 62 divisions, compared to 240,000 troops in 12 divisions for Taiwan. China has 770 fighting ships (total 905,000 metric tons) compared to Taiwan's 340 fighting ships (204,000 metric tons), but these are of higher quality. Taiwan has only 620 combat aircraft to match China's 3,600, but Taiwan's are better and China's must cover other theaters as well. China is thought to have 20 ICBMs that could reach the US, 100 IRBMs that could easily reach Japan (but most are targeted on Russia), and hundreds of shorter-ranged missiles that threaten Taiwan (some of them could reach Japan if their launchers were re-deployed.) Other regional powers include:
@ Russia, with 110,000 troops (17 divisions), 350 fighting vessels, and 750 combat aircraft.
@ North Korea has one million troops (27 divisions), 690 fighting ships (105,000 metric tons), and 590 combat aircraft (few of them modern). --Stephen V Cole