China points finger at US on regional tensions

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's defence ministry said on Tuesday that "some countries" are increasing tension in Asia and the Pacific, in thinly veiled criticism of US efforts to ramp up its military presence and alliances in the region.

China is uneasy with what the United States has called the "rebalancing" of forces as the United States winds down the war in Afghanistan and pays renewed attention to the Asia-Pacific region.

China says the policy has emboldened Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in longstanding territorial disputes.

China faces "multiple and complicated security threats" despite its growing influence, the Ministry of National Defense said in an 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 paper.

"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," it said.

The dispute with Japan over the uninhabited islands, which Japan calls Senkaku, has escalated in recent months to the point where China and Japan have scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships 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, including the Spratly Islands. China lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is criss-crossed 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, and has 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 is needed for legitimate defensive purposes, and that the sums spent pale in comparison with US defence expenditure.

"Major powers are vigorously developing new and more sophisticated military technologies so as to ensure that they can maintain strategic superiority in international competition in such areas as outer space and cyber space," the ministry said.