China’s state news agency accused the United States Thursday of “exaggerating” the threat posed by its military, after a report said the Asian nation was expanding its maritime power.
The US defence department said in its annual report to Congress that China was increasingly focused on naval power and had invested in hi-tech weaponry that would extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond.
Xinhua said many people in China found it “weird” that the United States, which spends far more on its military than any other country in the world, should highlight Chinese expenditure.
“The report… exaggerated the threat incurred by China’s military development in 2010 to the Asia-Pacific region,” Xinhua said in a commentary.
“For many in China, it is weird that the Pentagon, whose expenditures reached nearly $700 billion and accounted for over an appalling 40 percent of the world’s total in 2010, routinely points its finger at China.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army — the largest armed force in the world — is extremely secretive about its defence programs, which benefit from a huge and expanding military budget boosted by the nation’s runaway economic growth.
Beijing announced earlier this year that military spending would rise to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.7 billion) in 2011 and also said it was developing its first stealth fighter jet.
The weapons buildup comes as the Asian economic giant places a growing emphasis on securing strategic shipping lanes and mineral-rich areas in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims sovereign rights to almost all of the South China Sea, although several Southeast Asian countries have competing claims.
Tensions flared this year after the Philippines and Vietnam accused China of becoming increasingly aggressive.
The Pentagon report, released on Wednesday, also renewed US warnings that China was extending its military edge over Taiwan, citing better artillery that could strike targets within or even across the Taiwan Strait.
China considers Taiwan, where the mainland’s defeated nationalists fled in 1949, to be a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, and Xinhua said the report amounted to “interfering”.
“The 94-page report, as usual, interferes with the internal issue of China by making wilful comments on the situation across Taiwan Straits,” it said.
Xinhua also accused the Pentagon of “overlooking the country’s peaceful defence policy” in its report.
“The Pentagon report, submitted to the Congress by the Pentagon annually pursuant to a US law since 2000, has drawn protest from China over its interfering nature, distortion of facts and baseless speculations,” it said.
The dispute over Taiwan, including US arms sales to Taipei, has remained a stumbling block to Washington’s attempts at promoting a security dialogue with the Chinese military.
However, Xinhua said relations between the US and Chinese militaries had improved over the past year.
It cited a visit to China last month by US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, America’s top military official. Mullen’s Chinese counterpart Chen Bingde visited the United States in May.