gangster.jpg  Bush Warns EU Not to Lift China Arms Ban: President Bush and European leaders plunged into a troublesome new dispute over the lifting of an arms embargo against China. Bush warned Congress might retaliate if Europe revokes the 15-year ban.

Pentagon report to portray China as emerging rival: The Pentagon is preparing to release a report on the Chinese military that warns the US that it should take more seriously the possibility that China might emerge as a strategic rival to the US, according to a senior government official.

The report has generated controversy in the Bush administration because of earlier drafts that concerned National Security Council officials by painting what they saw as an overly antagonistic picture of China.

The Ambiguous Arsenal: If you read the Washington Times, in addition to believing that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are hidden somewhere in Syria, you might believe that “China’s aggressive strategic nuclear-modernization program” was proceeding apace.

So, it may come as a shock to learn that China’s nuclear arsenal is about the same size it was a decade ago, and that the missile that prompted the Washington Times article has been under development since the mid-1980s. Perhaps your anxiety about “marginal improvements” to China’s missile force would recede as you learned that China’s 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981.

Estimating the size, configuration, and capability of China’s nuclear weapons inventory is not just an exercise in abstract accounting. The specter of a robust Chinese arsenal has been cited by the Bush administration as a rationale for not making deeper cuts in U.S. nuclear deployments. Likewise, opponents of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) point to China in making the case for maintaining U.S. deterrent capabilities. Others portray China’s modernization program as evidence of the country’s increasingly hostile posture toward Taiwan–adding a sense of urgency to developing missile defenses.

The true scope of China’s nuclear capabilities are hidden in plain sight, among the myriad declassified assessments produced by the U.S. intelligence community. Yet, such analyses have run afoul of conservative legislators, who express dismay when threat assessments don’t conform to their perceptions of reality.