WASHINGTON, July 17 Asia Pulse - Some states of the former Soviet Union (FSU) are helping China enhance its military through arms sales and technology transfers, according to a Pentagon report to Congress released July 12.
While the states of the FSU have for the most part forsaken the communist ideology that still holds sway in Beijing, Russia and a few other FSU countries have helped Beijing's communist rulers to build up their military might, the report says.
China has the world's largest standing military force, according to the Pentagon report.
Besides high profile weapons like the Sukhoi Su-30MKK fighter and KILO class submarines purchased from Russia, China is engaged in an ongoing effort to build up its military power by arms deals with countries that made up the former Soviet Union, according to the Defense Department's 2002 Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China.
"China's force modernization program is heavily reliant upon assistance from Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union," the report says.
"Russia's assistance to China's space program is extensive," the report adds, while Russian arms sales and technical assistance to China "accelerate Beijing's force modernization, and likely will have a significant impact on its ability to use military force."
According to the report, China maintains relations with states of the FSU to develop economic and political influence and to "gain access to the advanced military technologies and weapon systems necessary to pursue military modernization."
While only Russia and the Ukraine can manufacture and sell complete weapons systems, the report says, other states of the FSU "tend to sell parts or components of a larger system."
The report estimates that Russia sells China roughly $1 billion ($1,000 million) a year in weapons.
According to the report, China itself now produces the Su-27 aircraft, an air defense fighter. The report adds that the SU-27 and the Su-30MKK fighter, a multi-mission aircraft, are rapidly being integrated into operational units.
China's military received its first Su-27 in 1992, the report notes.
China's maritime forces were upgraded in 2000 when the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) took command of its first Russian-made Sovremennyy-class guided missile destroyer. China has signed a contract for two additional Sovremennyy destroyers, the report says, and the PLAN "could acquire additional Russian-made major surface combatants."
The Russian-built Sovremennyy class destroyers are equipped with Sunburn anti-ship cruise missiles.
China also is seeking Russia's A-50 Mainstay AWACS aircraft, according to the report. China has used a modified version of the Soviet-designed Badger Bomber as a refueling aircraft, while using the bomber itself as a platform for anti-ship cruise missiles, the report says.
Russia has already provided China with the SA-N-7 missile, "the most capable short-range surface-to-air defense system for the PLAN in the near future," the report says.
"Technology from the SA-N-7 probably could assist with the development of an indigenous naval SAM system," the report adds.
In July 2001, the report says, Beijing and Moscow signed a five-year space cooperation agreement that includes setting up joint-development departments to work on regional missile defense systems and a new generation of high-tech weapons and equipment.
Regarding radio frequency weapons, the report says, "China may consider working with Russia to support research and development on a high-powered microwave system (HPM), referred to as Ranets-E, which would target the electronics onboard precision guided weapons."
Ukraine is a "moderate" supplier in the world arms trade, and its sales to China represent "only a very small percentage of its total world sales," the report says.
Belarus uses arms sales to generate hard currency, the report says, with China a lucrative market since there are no internationally recognized sanctions against the Beijing regime.
Uzbekistan, which is a signatory to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has only limited arms and technology sales to China, the report says.
Regarding Kazakhstan, the report says, "(a)vailable information does not support a significant Kazakh-Chinese military arms relationship."
The same is true for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the report says, while the other former states of the Soviet Union -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Turkmenistan -- "are not believed to have a significant defense, security, or military-technical component to their bilateral relations with China."
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2000 requires the Pentagon to prepare an Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China.
Congress mandates the Defense Department to report on current and future military strategy of China and to address issues such as the military-technological development of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), its tactical doctrines, strategic outlook, and operational.
AsiaPulse, July 17, 2002