China on Thursday criticized a newly released U.S. report on Beijing's growing military power as a "gross distortion," saying it could damage military relations between the two countries.Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang lashed out at the report as "interference" in China's affairs and said his country had formally complained to the United States.
"It is a gross distortion of facts and interference into China's internal affairs. China resolutely opposes it and has made solemn representation to the U.S. side," he said at a regularly scheduled press conference.
A U.S. Defense Department report released in Washington, D.C. said that Beijing's rapidly growing military strength is shifting the military balance in the region and could be used to force its claim in disputed territories.
The report, an annual assessment for Congress, said China continues to develop weapons that threaten longtime rival Taiwan, even though tensions between the two sides have been reduced significantly. The report also said that China is developing longer range capabilities that could have an effect beyond the Asia-Pacific region.
Qin said at a regularly scheduled press conference that China has pursued peaceful development and that its military policy is defensive in nature.
"We urge the U.S. side to respect this fundamental fact, drop the Cold War mentality and bias ... and stop making groundless accusations against China so as not to further damage the two countries' military relations," he said. "It is a gross distortion of facts and interference into China's internal affairs."
The military report comes in the wake of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China after Chinese vessels this month harassed a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in international waters in the South China Sea.
U.S.-China military-to-military talks just resumed recently after a five-month suspension over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan last year.
The report noted that the "pace and scope of China's military transformation have increased" in recent years with the purchase of foreign weapons and greater spending on new technologies and reforms of the armed forces. It said China continued to develop "disruptive" technologies such as anti-satellite weapons and satellite communication jammers.
China's military spending has increased by double-digit percentages for nearly two decades. This year, China announced a 14.9 percent rise in military spending this year to 480.68 billion yuan ($70.27 billion), though it was a smaller increase than in previous years.
The country's spending, which puts it on par with Japan, Russia and Britain, is still dwarfed by U.S. military expenditures, which are nearly 10 times as large.