BEIJING — China faces “multiple and complicated” threats in the Asia-Pacific region but will put defending itself “above all else,” a defense ministry report said Tuesday.
An annual white paper identified as challenges a territorial row with Japan and “some countries” strengthening alliances and boosting their military presence in the region.
The United States has pivoted its foreign policy toward Asia in recent years, a move widely seen as having emboldened China’s rivals in a series of maritime territorial spats, which include Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. China has the world’s largest active military.
“China still faces multiple and complicated security threats and challenges,” said the white paper on Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces, adding the military would “place above all else the protection of national sovereignty and security.”
“Some countries are strengthening their Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanding military presence in the region, and frequently making the situation there tenser,” it said, without naming any particular state.
Asked if Washington’s influence was raising tensions, defense ministry spokesman Colonel Yang Yujun added: “Certain efforts made to highlight a military agenda and enhance military deployment and also strengthen military alliances in the region are not in line with the common interest.” Such actions “were not conducive to upholding peace and stability in the region,” he added.
The white paper also referred to “neighboring countries” complicating and exacerbating tensions and explicitly accused Japan of “making trouble over the Diaoyu islands.”
The East China Sea islands are administered by Tokyo, which knows them as Senkaku, and have been the subject of an intense row between the two Asian powers that reached fever pitch last year after Japan nationalized some of them. Both Beijing and Tokyo have scrambled jets near the islands.
A Japanese foreign ministry official told AFP that Tokyo had protested to the Chinese embassy over the paper.
“China’s peculiar argument about the issue is not acceptable,” he said.
The release of the paper is aimed at “better introducing” the development of China’s armed forces to a domestic and foreign public, according to Yang.
“China is very candid in terms of its strategic intentions,” he said, adding, “We know that every country has its military secrets.”
Beijing has repeatedly asserted that it does not seek an expansionist policy as it continues its “peaceful rise.” But it has boosted its declared military spending in recent years and last month announced the latest in a series of double-digit rises, with a 10.7 percent increase last month.
China’s military has undergone rapid modernization in recent years. Last year, the navy took delivery of its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and it has also developed stealth fighter and anti-satellite capabilities.