China's stealth jet is no cause for alarm: US
The day after a Chinese newspaper published photos of what is supposedly a prototype of China's first stealth jet, US officials said they are not worried about the development.
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The leak Wednesday of photos of a what appears to be a prototype of China’s first stealth fighter jet attracted immediate attention worldwide, but many note that China is years away from moving that jet into service.
Pictures of the jet and accompanying articles appeared on the front page of the Chinese daily Global Times on Wednesday. The lack of a government suppression of the disclosure lends credence to China's reports, the Associated Press reports.
The Global Times did not comment on the authenticity of the pictures, but since the government wields extensive control over state media, the report's appearance and the fact that censors have not removed images from websites suggest a calculated move to leak the information into the public sphere.
That in turn would reflect the growing confidence of the traditionally secretive People's Liberation Army, which is pushing for greater influence and bigger budgets.
US defense officials don't appear worried.
"It is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter," since the Chinese are "still having difficulties with their fourth-generation fighter," Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Associated Press.
The prototype jet pictured in the leaked photos, known as a J-20, is notable because, like the US F-22, it would be undetectable by radar and antiaircraft defenses. The F-22 is currently the world’s only operational next-generation stealth fighter jet.
The pictures emerged only days before US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's visit to China planned for this weekend and a couple weeks before President Hu Jintao travels to the US to meet with President Obama, CNN reports.
The timing of the disclosure is no coincidence, some say, and hints at China's new approach to military power – deterrence – by broadcasting their growing capabilities, The New York Times reports.
These days, there is more muscle to show. A decade of aggressive modernization of China’s once creaky military is beginning to bear fruit, and both the Pentagon and China’s Asian neighbors are increasingly taking notice.