A Chinese H6-K bomber. A Pentagon report warns that Beijing's military is preparing pilots and a fleet of long-range bombers for potential strikes against the United States. Photo courtesy China Ministry of Defense
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The Chinese military is developing long-range bombers and is likely training pilots for missions to hit U.S. targets, a new Pentagon report says.
The Defense Department report says China is working for nuclear capability for its bombers, is weeding out corruption as it modernizes and restructures its armed forces and has increased its defense spending to $190 billion, a figure still one-third that of the United States. The defense expenditure is expected to rise to $240 billion over 10 years.
The findings are in the 145-page "Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China," a comprehensive report mandated by Congress to detail Chinese military developments over the previous year. It was released late Thursday.
"Over the last three years, the [People's Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets," the report says.
The analysis adds that China may be seeking the "capability to strike U.S. and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam," and that Beijing is developing a "stealthy, long-range strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability that could be operational within the next 10 years."
China is also restructuring ground forces to "fight and win."
"The purpose of these reforms is to create a more mobile, modular, lethal ground force capable of being the core of joint operations," it says.
It also mentions China's expanding space programs, despite its stated "public stance against the militarization of space." U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the establishment of a sixth branch of the armed forces, a "space force," in June.
A Pentagon paper on defense strategy, released earlier this year, referred to "long-term strategic competition with China" as a top military challenge. Its release was followed by a $717 billion U.S. defense spending bill that specifically encourages closer cooperation with Taiwan, regarded by Beijing as a breakaway province to eventually return to China.
The Pentagon said China was using "increasingly advanced military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan" from declaring full independence.
Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Wu Qian said Tuesday the United States was "full of Cold War mentality."
"A man cannot prosper without honesty. The same is true for a country. We urge the U.S. to stick to its promises to China regarding Taiwan question, and uphold the one-China policy."