The Pentagon's recent annual report on the Chinese military spotlights growing Chinese naval capability, underscoring the narrowing gap between the Asian power's maritime forces and those of the US Navy (USN), as well as drawing attention to China's increasing dominance in the Western Pacific.
The report explicitly mentioned that China's military has expanded its bomber operations in recent years while "likely training for strikes" against the United States and its allies.
In August 2017, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait in the southwest 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.
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 force by 2050.More news: Fitbit announces Charge 3 fitness tracker, coming this October for $150
With recent tests, China may be trying to show off its "capability to strike USA and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam", the report said, according to BBC News.
These improvements pose major challenges to Taiwan's security, the report said, arguing that "China could pursue a measured approach by signaling its readiness to use force or conduct punitive actions against Taiwan".
The call has alarmed China's neighbors, several of whom are embroiled in tense border disputes with the superpower. With almost a million troops, the PLA is the largest standing ground force in the world.
The assessment, at a time of heightened US-China tensions over trade, was contained in an annual report that highlighted China's efforts to increase its global influence, with defence spending that the Pentagon estimated exceeded US$190 billion (S$261 billion) past year.More news: Move over 'Thriller': The Eagles have No.1 album of all
The Pentagon report said China is undergoing its "most comprehensive restructure in its history to become a force capable of fighting joint operations".
As CNN reported, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he hopes to modernize China's military this year by "weeding out widespread corruption in the ranks and updating the country's military hardware".
The annual report generally looks at countries the United States thinks could challenge its military dominance, said Li Haidong, a U.S. studies researcher at China Foreign Affairs University.
The document also shines a light on China's ongoing military preparations for a "contingency" in the Taiwan Strait. "Failing that, China would attempt to delay intervention and seek victory in an asymmetric, limited war of short duration".More news: Leak confirms Apple Watch Series 4 is launching next month
The bombers could be used to attack Taiwan or launch from new bases in the South China Sea to fly into the Indian Ocean, it added. China has reclaimed 3,200 of acres of land in the Spratly Island chain and militarized them with ports, runways and other military infrastructure.