Pentagon: China building bombers, training pilots for missions against U.S.

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionA BBC team flew over the disputed South China Sea islands in a US military plane

One of the arguments in favour of developing such a force is that American rivals like China appear increasingly ready to strike United States space-based capabilities in the event of a conflict.

Militarily, the report said the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been developing capabilities in "overwater bomber operating areas" and is "gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against USA and allied targets".

In August 2017, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait, south-west of the Japanese islands, and then for the first time, turned north to fly east of Okinawa, where 47,000 U.S. troops are based.

The report noted that these flights could be "used as a strategic signal to regional states", but the PLA hasn't been clear about "what messages such flights communicate beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities".

The report notes the training is part of an attempt to leverage "China's growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional preeminence and expand the country's global influence".

And there also fears the Asian superpower's rocket programme could be a cover for some kind of futuristic "star wars" military project in space.

China is deploying "increasingly advance military capabilities meant to coerce Taiwan" in a bid to prevent self-governing Taiwan from declaring independence, CNN reported quoting the report as saying.

Yet, the report says China's goals are not only sought through military means.

"US military aircraft, this is China. leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding", a representative of the PLA said.

Beijing has claims over most of the territories, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim they have a stake in the region.

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U.S. -China military ties have deteriorated of late, with the Trump administration in May revoking an invitation for Beijing to join in Pacific naval exercises due to its activities in disputed parts of the sea.

China claims the waters by right, despite a United Nations ruling in 2016 deciding the disputed region does not belong to China.

China is engaged in a decades-long build-up and modernisation of its once-backward armed forces, and military leaders have set a goal of fielding a world-class military by 2050.

The Pentagon report said Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature infrastructure policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), served to encourage countries to fall into line with China's ambitions.

According to the Pentagon, the PLA in April 2017 undertook a massive transformation of operational and tactical units as part of its structural reforms.

China is transforming its ground forces to "fight and win", it is warned.

It is estimated China spent more than $190bn (£149bn) on defence past year, with the Pentagon predicting a rise to $240bn (188bn) by 2028.

Tensions also continue in the non-military sphere.

There is regular contact between USA and Chinese military officials.

The document warns that China "is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with China by force".

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