`Chinese Navy gearing to assume missions other than Taiwan`
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Last Updated: Friday, July 17, 2009, 18:37
Tokyo: Chinese Navy is upgrading its submarines and combat vessels with latest air defence and anti-ship missile capabilities to "assume missions other than Taiwan," the Japanese Defence Ministry warned on Friday.

Beijing "has begun work to acquire the capability to engage in missions other than dealing with the Taiwan issue in recent years," the ministry said in an annual white paper, citing such Chinese moves as its space development efforts and active naval activities beyond adjacent waters.

The report noted that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels were deployed for the first time outside the country's waters last year.

"China's Navy's deployment since December of vessels to the Gulf of Aden for an anti-piracy mission -- its first activity out of nearby waters -- shows its capability to operate in a distant sea as well as an enhanced emphasis on protecting its sea lanes," Kyodo news agency quoted the 427- page 'Defence of Japan 2009' report as saying.

Citing Beijing's interest in possessing aircraft carriers, the report cautions, "The scope of its capabilities appears to be expanding beyond waters near China."

"The military balance between China and Taiwan has changed to the advantage of China," it notes on the ground that China outnumbered Taiwan in terms of advanced fighters in 2009.

China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the nation, even by force.

Chinese destroyers and other vessels have also increased activities in waters near Japan as seen last October when a fleet of combat ships were for the first time spotted sailing between Hokkaido and the Honshu main island in open waters through the Tsugaru Strait into the Pacific, the report says.

China's military development is also a major concern to Tokyo. Japan has intensified monitoring off its southwestern shores around islets in the East China Sea claimed by Tokyo, Beijing and Taipei.

The report also expressed serious concern over North Korea after it conducted a nuclear test in May, the second since Pyongyang's first test in October 2006.

"It is difficult to rule out the possibility that North Korea could achieve miniaturisation of nuclear weapons and development of nuclear warheads in a relatively short time," the report said, adding that Pyongyang is likely importing missile-related materials and technologies.

"Developments in North Korea, including the possible impact of the health issues of Kim Jong Il and the question of succession," need to be closely monitored," the report said.

The report said Japan was examining projects to bolster national defence under a law passed last year allowing space technology for the first time to be used for military purposes.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, July 17, 2009, 18:37

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