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China is building a modern and regionally powerful navy with a limited but growing capability for conducting operations beyond the country's shores, a congressional report said.
Chinese navy ships in recent years have begun to conduct operations away from China's home waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the waters surrounding Europe, including the Mediterranean Sea and the Baltic Sea.
Consistent with these goals, observers believe China wants its military to be capable of acting as a force that can deter US intervention in a conflict in China's near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening US forces, Congressional Research Service said in a recent report.
China is building a modern and regionally powerful navy with a limited but growing capability for conducting operations beyond China's shores, the report said.
The CRS as the name indicates is an independent and bipartisan wing of the US Congress, whose experts prepares reports and research materials for US lawmakers on issues of their interest for them to take informed decision.
Prepared by experts, these are not considered as an official policy of the US Congress.
In its report, dated August 18, the CRS said additional missions for China's navy include conducting maritime security (including anti-piracy) operations, evacuating Chinese nationals from foreign countries when necessary, and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.
"The issue for Congress is how the US Navy should respond to China's military modernisation efforts, particularly its naval modernisation effort. Decisions that Congress reaches on this issue could affect US Navy capabilities and funding requirements and the US defense industrial base," it said.
Although many of China's long-distance naval deployments have been for making diplomatic port calls, some of them have been for other purposes, including conducting training exercises and carrying out antipiracy operations in waters off Somalia, it said, adding that China is now looking at military bases overseas.
Its first such military base has been established in Djibouti.
"In March 2017, it was reported that China might deploy a contingent of Chinese marines to the commercial port at Gwadar, Pakistan, to help maintain security at that port," CRS said.
The report said some observers are concerned that a combination of growing Chinese naval capabilities and budget- driven reductions in the size and capability of the US.
Navy could encourage Chinese military overconfidence and demoralise US allies and partners in the Pacific, and thereby destabilise or make it harder for the US to defend its interests in the region.