— China has released a report on its military strength that says U.S. efforts to rebalance its presence to Asia are adding to tensions in the region. The defense white paper says China faces multiple, complicated security threats and challenges but repeated the country’s pledge to never engage in military expansion.
In Beijing’s latest white paper on defense
, the "Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces," China notes that "some country" has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances and expanded its presence in the region, which it frequently says makes the situation tenser.
The thinly veiled comment was a reference to ongoing U.S. efforts to rebalance its military and diplomatic presence in the region as it reduces its presence in Afghanistan.
The U.S. says that by 2020 it will see 60 percent of its naval fleet deployed to the Pacific.
China sees that as a clear effort to contain its rise onto the global stage.
"Highlighting the military security agenda, purposely enhancing military deployment, and strengthening military alliances does not conform to the trend of the times, nor is it conducive to regional peace and stability," said Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun.
William Choong is a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.
"If you are China and you don’t have any formal allies in the neighborhood and you see what the United States is doing in terms of deploying 2,500 Marines on a rotational deployment to Australia, you see the littoral combat ships arriving in Singapore this week… It’s beginning to look rather worrying," said Choong.
Washington's outreach has included traditional allies such as Japan and South Korea as well as governments that have had fewer American diplomatic, economic and military links such as Vietnam and Burma.
The Philippines is seeking to host more U.S. troops on a rotational basis and Indonesia is looking to buy military hardware.
Although China says its rise is peaceful, Choong says that is something its neighbors are finding harder to believe.
"If you speak to a lot of policy makers across Southeast Asia in particular, many of them, they did buy it in the first instance, but as what we’ve seen in the past two years, with regard to the South China Sea, a lot of Southeast Asian countries are doing a double take on peaceful rise," he said.
China argues that Washington’s increased cooperation has emboldened countries such as Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam to take a tougher course in responding to disputes.
After a year in which maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea drew international attention, Beijing announced it is putting increased emphasis on its naval capability.
"Right now," said Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, "China is facing severe challenges regarding its maritime interests. Safeguarding our maritime interests is an important obligation of the Chinese military, and it is also a practical need to cope with national security threats.”
China has the world’s second largest defense budget, behind the United States, and its new report tried to set aside concerns about Chinese military intentions. China sees its military as a force for regional and global stability and the report highlights Chinese forces' participation in U.N. peacekeeping efforts and in aiding with disaster relief.
The report revealed for the first time new details about the makeup of China’s 1.5 million military forces and the divisions and commands for the army, air force and navy.