Friday, September 28, 2007

While US tied up in Iraq, China making big strides: US commander in Japan

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan: While the U.S. has been tied up fighting the war in Iraq, China has made huge gains toward modernizing its military and improving its equipment, and its air defenses are now nearly impenetrable to all but the newest of American fighters, the senior U.S. military official in Japan said.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of the roughly 50,000 U.S. forces in Japan, Washington's biggest ally in Asia, said in an interview this week the Iraq war is reducing the availability of U.S. troops and equipment to meet other contingencies and eating up funds that might be used to replace or upgrade planes that are being pushed to their operational limits.

China, meanwhile, is rapidly filling the skies with newer, Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 "Flankers" and Su-30s, along with the domestically built J-10, a state-of-the-art fighter that Beijing just rolled out in January. China has also improved its ballistic missile defenses and its ability to take the fight into space — as it proved by shooting down an old weather satellite at an orbital height similar to that used by the U.S. military.......

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