Jan. 16 (UPI) -- China has rapidly modernized its military and increased defense spending over the past two decades, posing a security threat to Asia, and Taiwan in particular, a U.S. military intelligence report said.
The report released Tuesday by the Defense Intelligence Agency said China saw a nearly threefold increase in defense spending from 2002 to 2018. Last year, the DIA estimated Beijing spent more than $200 billion.
"China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region. As it continues to grow in strength and confidence, our nation's leaders will face a China insistent on having a greater voice in global interactions, which at times may be antithetical to U.S. interests," the report said.
A dispute over control of Taiwan has been a driving factor in the increase of modernization.
"Beijing's longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan's reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China's military modernization," DIA Director Robert Ashley said.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen refused to acknowledge a "one China" solution and said she will not back down, despite losing re-election to a more Beijing-friendly opponent.
Xi has not ruled out the use of military force against Taiwan and called independence for the nation a "dead end."
"It is a historical conclusion drawn over 70 years of development of cross-strait relations and a must for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era," he said. "It's a legal fact that both sides of the Strait belong to one China, and cannot be changed by anyone or any force."
The United States broke ties with Taiwan four decades ago and re-established relations with China. Taiwan has been independent since 1949, when China's old regime took refuge in the aftermath of the Communist Party's revolution.
Nicholas Sakelaris contributed to this report.