A not-quite arms race with China

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The F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter won't be the only new stealth fighter flying soon. The Chinese J-20 is getting close to operational. // Lockheed Martin

Apparently China’s super death ray carrier-sinking missile is still on Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ radar as he travels to China this week. Gates told The Telegraph that he had been concerned about the development of anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles since he took the job in 2006, and remained so. The trip was designed to ease tensions between the two powers, but so far it seems to have highlighted the jitters China’s recent military advancements have given the U.S.

The AP reports:

China has made strides in building a new stealth fighter jet, and Washington is also concerned about a new ballistic missile that could theoretically explode a U.S. aircraft carrier nearly 2,000 miles out to sea. China has also apparently beaten U.S. estimates to develop that weapon.

Gates told reporters traveling with him to Asia on Sunday that China had the potential to “put some of our capabilities at risk.”

“We have to pay attention to them. We have to respond appropriately with our own programs,” Gates said.

Hmm, responding to Chinese programs with programs. It couldn’t be another arms race, could it?

At their news conference Monday, Gates and [Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie] denied their governments are entering an arms race. Liang, dressed in his military uniform, animatedly defended China’s growing capabilities, calling them “entirely appropriate and consistent with China’s rise as an economic and political power.”

Well, that’s settled.

In regards to China’s J-20, Gates said that U.S. intel had dropped the ball on just how far along the Chinese were with the project.

“I think that what we’ve seen is that they may be somewhat further ahead in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted,” Gates said.

This after cell phone video of the aircraft hit the Internet last week. Observe:

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  1. Pingback: The Scoop Deck – A not-quite arms race, cont.

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