China says US report on its military damaged mutual trust

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel is pictured on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, on March 29, 2014.
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel is pictured on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, on March 29, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China has condemned the United States Defence Department's annual report on the Chinese military, calling it a deliberate distortion that has "severely damaged" mutual trust.

In its annual report to Congress on Chinese military activities, the US Defence Department said last Friday that China is expected to add substantial military infrastructure, including communications and surveillance systems, to artificial islands in the South China Sea this year.

China's Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun yesterday expressed "strong dissatisfaction" and "firm opposition" to the Pentagon report and said it has "severely damaged mutual trust", the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The report "hyped up" China's military threat and lack of transparency, "deliberately distorted" Chinese defence policies and "unfairly" depicted Chinese activities in the East and South China seas, Senior Colonel Yang was quoted as saying.

"China follows a national defence policy that is defensive in nature," he said, adding that the country's military build-up and reforms are aimed at maintaining sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and guaranteeing its peaceful development.

It is the US that has always been suspicious and flexing its military muscle by frequently sending military aircraft and warships to the region, Col Yang said.

'DELIBERATE DISTORTION'

China follows a national defence policy that is defensive in nature.

CHINA'S DEFENCE MINISTRY SPOKESMAN YANG YUJUN, who said China's military build-up and reforms are aimed at maintaining sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

Despite its calls for freedom of navigation and restraint for peace, the US has pushed forward militarisation of the South China Sea with an "intention to exert hegemony", he added.

The Pentagon report said the planned addition of military infrastructure would give China long-term "civil-military bases" in the contested waters.

It estimated that China's reclamation work had added more than 1,300ha of land on seven features it occupied on the Spratly Islands in just two years.

The report said China had completed its major reclamation efforts last October, switching its focus to infrastructure development, including three air strips that can accommodate advanced fighter jets.

Col Yang defended the construction, saying it serves mostly civilian purposes and helps fulfil China's international responsibilities and obligations by providing more public goods.

The Pentagon report comes at a time of heightened tension over maritime territories claimed by China and disputed by claimants including the Philippines.

Manila in 2013 unilaterally initiated an arbitration case against Beijing over maritime disputes in the South China Sea at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). A decision is expected next month.

Yesterday, Cambodia's royalist Funcinpec Party voiced its support for China and urged Manila and Beijing to resolve their dispute through bilateral negotiations.

China has declared that it will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration proceedings, saying the arbitration violates the basic principles of international law and undermines the integrity and authority of Unclos, and it has no right to adjudicate on the case.

"We, Funcinpec Party, fully support the above-mentioned Chinese government declaration," the party said in a statement yesterday.

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2016, with the headline 'China says US report on its military damaged mutual trust'. Print Edition | Subscribe