The Pentagon is raising an alarm about "rapidly" growing Chinese military capabilities, from long-range bombers to a blue-water navy, as mainstream media warn that Chinese pilots are "likely" training for strikes against the US.
The Pentagon report says the Chinese air force has been "re-assigned" a nuclear mission.
According to the Pentagon, China is building a "stealthy, long-range strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability that could be operational within the next 10 years".
Even before the new report's release, Washington was feeling the full brunt of the Chinese military's fury over a new $717 billion United States defense bill which encourages closer cooperation with Taiwan to counter Beijing.
"Over the last three years, the PLA [People's Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against USA and allied targets", the report said, noting how China is pushing its operations out into the Pacific.
The annual report to Congress says China is increasing its ability to send bomber planes further afield.
The 130-page report on China's expansive military modernisation, which ranges from long-range precision-strike missiles, nuclear bombers and submarines to expanding information, cyber, space, counter-space and expeditionary warfare capabilities, comes ahead of the inaugural "two-plus-two" dialogue between India and the US.
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"China's plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute", the Pentagon said in the report titled "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China".
China, it says, is restructuring its ground forces to "fight and win".
The Chinese embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.
The document warns that China "is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with China by force". China's use of such tactics, which fall short of armed conflicts, to pursue its strategic objectives are evident in its expanding territorial and maritime sovereignty claims in South and East China Seas as well as the 73-day troop standoff with India at Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction past year, said the Pentagon.
The Pentagon's comments come at a time when the United States and China are planning to hold trade talks to try to resolve an escalating dispute over tariffs.
"The deployment and integration of nuclear-capable bombers would, for the first time, provide China with a nuclear "triad" of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air", the report said.
Titled, "U.S. report on China's military reveals its guilty conscience", the editorial states, "The U.S.' technical analysis of the PLA capability is one thing, the Pentagon's publication of the analysis to hype the "China threat" is another".
And in June, James Mattis became the first U.S. defence secretary to visit China since 2014.
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