BEIJING • China's Defence Ministry has lodged a complaint with the United States about a Pentagon report that said China's military was likely training for strikes against the US and its allies, saying it was "pure guesswork".
The assessment, at a time of heightened US-China tensions over trade, was contained in an annual report that highlighted China's efforts to increase its global influence, with defence spending that the Pentagon estimated exceeded US$190 billion (S$261 billion) last year.
China's Defence Ministry said on Friday that the report misrepresented China's strategic intentions and exaggerated the "so-called China military threat". "China's military expresses resolute opposition to this and has lodged stern representations with the US side."
China is on the path of peaceful development and pursues a defensive national strategy, and has always been a contributor to world peace and protector of the global order, the ministry said.
"The Chinese military's strengthening of modernisation is to protect the country's sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as global peace, stability and prosperity," it added. "The Chinese military's reform, weapons development and defensive capabilities in the Internet space are just and reasonable. The criticism in the US report is pure guesswork."
The Pentagon report said that while the People's Liberation Army had continued to extend operations, it was not clear what message Beijing was looking to send by carrying out bomber flights "beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities".
This year, China's air force landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region.
In January, the Pentagon put countering Beijing, along with Russia, at the centre of a new national defence strategy.
China's Defence Ministry said the "peaceful construction work" in the South China Sea was its right as a sovereign country. It criticised the US for its freedom of navigation operations there, adding the US report harms mutual trust between them.
"We demand the US side abandon Cold War thinking, objectively and rationally view China's defence and military construction, stop issuing the relevant reports, and take actual steps to promote and protect the stable development of military-to-military relations," it said.
While Washington and Beijing maintain military-to-military ties aimed at containing tensions, this has been tested in recent months, notably in May when the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise.
In June, US Defence Secretary James Mattis became the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014.