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Pentagon Distances Itself from China Warning

A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 2012.
The U.S. Defense Department is distancing itself from remarks made by a senior Navy official who said China is training for a short war with Japan.

U.S. Navy Captain James Fanell, deputy chief of staff intelligence and information systems for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was quoted as saying China is training its forces for a “short, sharp war” with Japan in remarks at a gathering in California earlier this month.

At a briefing Thursday, Pentagon spokesman U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters those are not the department's views.

“As I understand it, he was answering a question at a conference he was attending and that those were his views to express,” said Kirby.

U.S. officials have long complained that China has not been transparent about its goals as it continues an unprecedented expansion of its military. Kirby, using careful, diplomatic terms, repeated the calls the Pentagon has been making for years.

“What I can tell you about what Secretary Hagel believes is that we all continue to believe that the peaceful prosperous rise of China is a good thing for the region, for the world. We continue to want to improve our bilateral military relations with China and that we also think that a major component of that is increased transparency on their part about the investments they're making and the operations they're conducting, and that's where I leave it,” said Kirby.

In his remarks, Captain Fanell said the U.S. Navy has concluded that the Chinese military has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea, something he said would be followed by China's seizure of islands it disputes with Japan.

China has increased military activity in the region and raised tensions in the past several months by unilaterally imposing an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea and other actions that have included a near-collision with a U.S. Navy ship.

U.S. officials have expressed concern over what they say are China's increasingly assertive actions in the region; but, U.S. officials have, in general, stopped short of issuing strong responses to avoid escalation.

China's military budget is more than $100 billion, making it second only to the United States, which spends nearly $700 billion on defense each year.