"We're certainly tracking what they're doing with ballistic-carrying missile [submarines]", Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said on 3 May during a Pentagon briefing on the Defense Department's 2 May release of its annual report of Chinese military capabilities.
The report highlighted China's use of a "maritime militia" of fishing boats with paramilitary crews to slowly, inexorably annex disputed islands in the South China Sea as an example of how Beijing infuses its political agenda with just enough military muscle to avoid a direct confrontation with its most powerful adversaries.
"China's advancement of projects such as the "One Belt, One Road" Initiative will probably drive military overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects", the document pointed out.
The Pentagon disagrees with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's insistence that China is not a threat to the United States.
Shortly after, however, Italy became the first major Western country to support the BRI, which stipulates promoting investment in projects that would link dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, and Europe through the creation of infrastructure networks similar in goal to the ancient Silk Road trading routes.
The expansion of China's submarine forces is just one element of a broad modernization of its military, which U.S. experts have said is designed largely to deter any action by the US' armed forces. Other members of the Arctic Council besides the United States, including Denmark, have expressed concerns about China's growing role in the polar region.
"China's leaders are leveraging China's growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional pre-eminence and expand the country's global influence", the report said. "In August 2018, China successfully tested the Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2), which it publicly described as a hypersonic wave-rider vehicle", said the report. China 4,182 total aircraft, 1,150 fighter aircraft, 629 multirole aircraft, 270 attack aircraft and 1,170 helicopters.
China's military spending, while still only a fraction of America's, is also being presented as "laying the groundwork" for a military invasion of Taiwan.
China's J-20 fighter is part of a modernization effort that's been "closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities, such as aircraft performance, command and control and electronic warfare", according to Defense Intelligence Agency report. China is modernizing its unmanned aircraft fleets with domestically produced drones. This is "something we're concerned about", Schriver said, noting the Pentagon's budget request calls for both defensive capabilities to counter this and significant investment in offensive capabilities for the US, Schriver said.
This has prompted concerns from Arctic states over Beijing's long-term strategic objectives.
This year's report includes a special section devoted to China's increased focus on the Arctic. "China produces a wide range of ballistic, cruise, air-to-air, and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) for the PLA [Public Liberation Army of China] and for export, which has enhanced its primary assembly and solid propellant rocket motor production facilities", the report said.
Most of the technology development is dependent on the country's aggressive use of cyber, along with acquiring foreign technology. It also noted the possibility of limited missile strikes.