Military forces 'not a threat'

08:55, October 28, 2009      

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A senior military officer downplayed concerns from the United States about China's military growth and explained that the buildup was justified given its vast territory and the severity of challenges.

Xu Caihou, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in a Monday speech before a leading Washington think tank that China's military growth was not a threat and the country will steadfastly stick to the path of peaceful development.

He has been in the US since Sunday at the invitation of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and will be touring major US military bases through Nov 3.

His visit is meant to boost communication between the two nations' militaries.

"We will not and could not challenge or threaten any other country," he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "certainly not the United States."

"I want to make clear that China's limited weapons and equipment are entirely to meet the minimum requirements for national security," Xu said through a translator.

US officials have expressed alarm about what they see as China's "unprecedented military expansion" in the past year. Last week, Gates said better dialogue was needed to avoid "mistakes and miscalculations".

Xu described China's development of advanced weapons systems, including cruise and ballistic missiles, as "entirely for self-defense" and as justified "given the vast area of China".

"As you know, China has yet to realize complete unification," Xu said. "So I believe it is necessary for the PLA (the People's Liberation Army) to have an appropriate level of modernization in our weapons and equipment."

Xu also told the audience that the Chinese military is actively performing counterterrorism, disaster relief, international peace-keeping, rights protection, international relief and other non-warlike military tasks, safeguarding national security and development interests, and helping maintain peace and stability in the world.

He said China and the US are countries with important influences in the world. Thus, to expand exchange and cooperation in all areas is in the fundamental interests of both countries and will help promote world peace and development.

High-level meetings between the two nations were halted after the US engaged in a $6.5-billion arms sale to Taiwan last year.

The military ties between the two countries warmed after US President Barack Obama took office this year.

But there were still problems, with Chinese and US ships confronting each other several times in the South China Sea.

Xu Weidi, a strategic scholar with Beijing-based National Defense University, said what concerns the US is whether China will hurt its interests after China's current economic boom.

"But for China, co-prosperity is its only choice for further development," the scholar said.

The vice-chairman said China's military is still in an early stage.

"China's defense policy remains defensive" and was designed to repel attacks, not initiate attacks, Xu Caihou said. "We will never seek hegemony ... military expansion."

"The US wants to affect China's growth when it realized it cannot stop China's growth," said Rear Admiral Yang Yi, a senior naval expert at the National Defense University.

The US have complained that China's policies toward the US are ambiguous. But Washington's policies toward China are likewise ambiguous, especially on the Taiwan question, Yang said.

Xu's US trip has the aim of fulfilling the consensus reached by President Hu Jintao and his counterpart Barack Obama on improving and developing relations between the two countries' armies.

"The military-to-military relationship constitutes an important part of overall bilateral relations. It is important not only to strategic trust ... but also to regional stability," he said. "The Chinese military is positive toward developing relations with the US military."

During the visit, Xu will hold talks with Gates about the relations of the two armies and international and regional affairs.

Source: China Daily
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