[The Guardian] China blasts US for Asia-Pacific military build-up
With tensions high over North Korea, its ally releases defence white paper accusing Washington of stoking regional disputes
China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning: the country unveiled another double-digit rise in military expenditure last month. Photograph: AP/Xinhua
China‘s defence ministry has made a thinly veiled attack on the US for increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific by ramping up its military presence and alliances in the region, days after John Kerry, the US secretary of state, visited Beijing.
China is uneasy with what the US has called the “rebalancing” of forces as Washington winds down the war in Afghanistan and renews its attention in the Asia-Pacific.
China says the policy has emboldened Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in longstanding territorial disputes. China faced “multiple and complicated security threats” despite its growing influence, the ministry of defence said in its annual white paper, adding that the US strategy meant “profound changes” for the region.
“There are some countries which are strengthening their Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanding their military presence in the region and frequently make the situation there tenser,” the ministry said in the 40-page document, in a clear reference to the US.
Such moves “do not accord with the developments of the times and are not conducive towards maintaining regional peace and stability”, ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters.
The official People’s Liberation Army Daily went further, saying in a commentary on Monday that China needed to beef up its defences to deal with a hostile west bent on undermining it. “Hostile western forces have intensified their strategy to westernise and split China, and employed every possible means to contain and control our country’s development,” it said.
On Monday, Kerry defended the reorientation of US foreign policytowards Asia as he ended a trip to the region dominated by concerns about North Korea’s nuclear programme.
While China has been angered by North Korea’s behaviour, including staging its third nuclear test in February, it has also made clear it considers US displays of force in response to Pyongyang’s behaviour to be a worrisome development.
China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and financial backer – the two fought together in the 1950-53 Korean war – although Yang would not be drawn on the subject aside from repeating a call for peace and dialogue.
China’s own military moves have worried the region, too. China unveiled another double-digit rise in military expenditure last month, to 740.6bn yuan (£77.8bn/$119bn) for 2013 and is involved in protracted and often ugly disputes over a series of islands in the East and South China Seas.
“On the issues concerning China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighbouring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the Diaoyu Islands issue,” the white paper said.
The dispute with Japan over the uninhabited islands, which China calls Diaoyu and Japan calls Senkaku, has escalated in recent months to the point where China and Japan have sent fighter jets and patrol ships to shadow each other.
The waters around the islands in the East China Sea are rich fishing grounds and have potentially huge oil and gas reserves.
Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also have conflicting claims with China in parts of the South China Sea. China lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is crisscrossed by crucial shipping lanes.
The US shift comes as China boosts military spending and builds submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernisation. It has also tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.
China has repeatedly said the world has nothing to fear from its military spending, which it says is needed for legitimate defensive purposes in a complex and changing world, and that the sums spent pale in comparison with US defence expenditure.