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Report: China trying to crack U.S. computers, buy nukes

  • Story Highlights
  • Pentagon: Chinese military expanding its Navy, investing in weapons
  • Officials worry China is trying to hack into U.S. military computers
  • "Intrusions" have already happened, officials say, though info was not classified
  • Pentagon: China's lack of transparency makes it hard to know the extent of activity
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From Mike Mount
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Chinese military continues to increase spending on efforts to break into U.S. military computer systems, expand its Navy, and invest in intercontinental nuclear missiles and weapons to destroy satellites, according to the latest U.S report on China's military power.

Chinese military officers after a meeting about the People's Liberation Army in 2007.

The annual report from the Pentagon to Congress says China's total military spending in 2007 was between $97 billion and $139 billion, but it is hard to tell exactly how much was spent and on what.

In comparison, the U.S. military budget request for 2008 is $481.4 billion, not including war requests.

Pentagon officials said a chunk of China's spending went to cyberwarfare, because 2007 saw several "intrusions" believed to be from the Peoples Liberation Army. In the incidents, unclassified U.S. military computer systems were broken into and information was taken, according to Pentagon officials.

While the information taken was not classified, Pentagon officials said the worry is the Chinese hacking required many of the skills and capabilities that would also be required for a computer network attack.

Last summer, a cyber-attack on Department of Defense computer systems took down the e-mail capability of hundreds of staffers for weeks, but the Pentagon still will not comment on who initiated the attack. It is widely believed among the military to have been the Peoples Liberation Army.

China is also investing heavily in and fielding improved nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles and antisatellite missiles, according to the report.

The United States expressed its concern last year after China fired a missile at one of its old satellites and destroyed it, sending thousands of dangerous pieces of space debris into orbit.

The United States conducted a similar strike last month on a broken U.S. spy satellite before it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. U.S. officials said the satellite was hit and broke into thousands of small pieces that burned up as they re-entered Earth's atmosphere.

The United States is also concerned about the purchase of more submarines by the Chinese navy as well as plans for more aircraft carriers. The Chinese once had a small Navy. Now the United States is keeping an eye on the growing service amid concerns over Taiwan.

The concerns include "China's near-term focus on preparing for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, including the possibility of U.S. intervention, which is an important driver of its modernization," the report says.

Additionally, the Chinese have placed about 100 more short-range missiles on the shore opposite Taiwan in the past year, it says.

Pentagon officials worry the continued increase in Chinese military spending is slowly tipping the balance of power between China and Taiwan in China's favor. The United States has said it would help defend Taiwan if China invaded.

The report also says the Peoples Liberation Army is "pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery against high-tech adversaries."

Such an army, the report says, would have "the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could, over time, offset traditional U.S. military advantages."

The United States says the lack of transparency by the Chinese on its spending poses "risks to stability by increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation," and that China has yet to explain to the international community the purpose of its military expansion, Pentagon officials said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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