By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 15, 2009 - (This is the second in a three-part series on the intelligence community's annual threat assessment.) U.S. intelligence planners predict the 21st century will be the time for the rise of Asia, the director of national intelligence said Feb. 12. Dennis C. Blair told the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that "China and India are restoring positions they held in the 18th century when China produced approximately 30 percent and India 15 percent of the world's wealth."
While the current global economic crisis will slow growth in China and India, the two countries are likely to become the world's third and fourth largest economies by 2025. China's emergence as a world power is affecting the regional balance of power in Asia, Blair said in a prepared statement.
While the communist rulers of China have been successful in transforming the direction of the country, the government's international behavior is driven by the need to maintain power. Leaders see their main missions as continuing prosperity and maintaining domestic stability, he said.
"Chinese leaders view preserving domestic stability as one of their most important internal security challenges," Blair said.
Roughly 300 million Chinese have benefited from the current economic success, leaving 1 billion still in poverty.
Tibet and Taiwan remain problems internationally for the Chinese, but the election of a new government in Taiwan has tamped down tensions between the United States and the People's Republic, Blair said.
From a military standpoint, China continues its modernization programs and operationally Chinese forces are prepared to move beyond the region, the admiral said. For example, a Chinese ship is cooperating with anti-pirate patrols in the Gulf of Aden, and Chinese troops may soon take part in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
On the equipment side, China continues to develop new, increasingly accurate missile capabilities that can reach U.S. forces throughout the region.
China is developing a robust anti-satellite capability, and Blair said this is among the nation's highest military priorities. The Chinese also are modernizing their nuclear weapons capabilities.
Blair also spoke of India, which is harnessing the power of free markets after decades of trying to manage the economy.
"Like China, India's expanding economy will lead New Delhi to pursue new trade partners, gain access to vital energy markets, and generate the other resources required to sustain rapid economic growth," he said.
From a foreign policy and intelligence standpoint, relations with Pakistan dominate. The terror attack on Mumbai in November chilled relations between the two powers. Pakistan has vowed to crack down on extremists who used Pakistan to plan and train for the attack that crippled India's major financial center and killed more than 130 people.
In Asia, North Korea is the odd-man out. In a region that reaped the benefits of economic growth, North Koreans are starving, and the government is pouring money into the military.
Blair said the U.S. intelligence community believes North Korea is operating a covert uranium enrichment program. While the country has nuclear weapons, Blair said he did not think North Korea would use them unless faced with a military defeat or loss of control.
North Korea continues to participate in the Six Party Talks -- with South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States -- but progress is slow, Blair said. North Korea continues to proliferate nuclear weapons and missile technology, most notably to Iran and Syria.
"We remain concerned North Korea could again export nuclear technology," he said.