China has firmly rejected the “irresponsible” claims made in a report by the US Defense Department, which accused Beijing of seeking to expand its military footprint globally.
In a 106-page annual report titled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China and published on Tuesday, the Pentagon highlighted what it said were Chinese military ambitions.
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a long-standing friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
It also focused on the South China Sea, where China is involved in territorial disputes with some of its neighbors, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Pentagon said that, in the previous year, China had deployed intermediate-range Dongfeng-26 missiles, which are purportedly capable of delivering nukes to ground targets in the Western Pacific. The rockets, the report added, could also be used for conventional strikes against ships in the region, including those sailing in the South China Sea.
It speculated that China had spent some $180 billion on its military last year, higher than the officially declared figure of $144.3 billion.
In reaction, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a weekly news briefing on Wednesday that the country’s military, being “defensive in nature,” was only a force to safeguard peace and stability in the Asia
-Pacific region and beyond.
China only followed the “path of peaceful development,” she said.
“China’s national defense is for the purpose of upholding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, which are a sovereign state’s legitimate rights,” she further said, adding that the Pentagon’s report had been compiled in “disregard” of facts and contained “irresponsible remarks” on the Chinese military.
“We firmly oppose it,” she said.
Hua also strongly urged US officials to discard the Cold War mindset and to try to view Beijing’s military development in an “objective and rational light.”
Elsewhere in her remarks, the Chinese spokeswoman commented on China-Pakistan relations, stressing that the two neighbors were traditional friends and had conducted broad cooperation in various fields for win-win results and mutual interests for a long period of time.
“The China-Pakistan friendly cooperation does not target any third party and conforms to each other’s international commitments,” Hua added.
Beijing has been increasingly gravitating toward Islamabad over its Belt and Road Initiative, a regional infrastructure project, much to the annoyance to Pakistan’s arch-rival India.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a series of roads, railways, pipelines, hydropower plants and other development projects, being built from Xinjiang Province in China to the port city of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan.
China has also long been a strong military, economic, and diplomatic supporter of Pakistan and is considered Islamabad’s largest trade and defense partner.