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Beijing slams Pentagon report alleging Chinese drills to strike US, allies

This undated photo taken in April 2018 shows J15 fighter jets on China's sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during a drill at sea. (Photo by AFP)

China’s defense ministry has lodged a complaint with the US, slamming as “pure guesswork” a Pentagon report that claimed the Chinese military was likely preparing for strikes against the United States and its allies.

In a late statement, the ministry insisted that the report distorted China’s strategic intentions and inflated the “so-called China military threat.”

“China’s military expresses resolute opposition to this and has lodged stern representations with the US side,” it said.

Pentagon’s claim was made in an annual report, which underscored Beijing’s efforts to expand its global influence with defense expenditures that exceeded $190 billion in 2017, according to US estimates. 

This is while the Pentagon had a budget of nearly $600 billion for 2017. Just last week, US President Donald Trump signed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that granted a top-line budget of $717 billion for the American military establishment.

“The Chinese military’s reform, weapons development and defensive capabilities in the internet space are just and reasonable,” Beijing’s defense ministry underlined in response to Washington’s censure of its defense plans, adding: “The criticism in the US report is pure guesswork.”

Beijing said it remains 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 Chinese military’s strengthening of modernization is to protect the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as global peace, stability and prosperity,” it emphasized.

The Pentagon report, which was issued amid escalating US-China trade tensions over tariffs, also asserted that while the Chinese military had continued to extend operations, it was not clear what message Beijing was trying to convey by conducting bomber flights “beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities.”

The report was referring to China’s air force drills earlier this year, during which Chinese bomber aircraft landed on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea region.

The US military has put China and Russia at the heart of a new national defense strategy, saying great power competition, not terrorism, was the primary focus of US national security. 

Beijing has slammed the US for its “freedom of navigation” operation in the region and insisted that China’s construction work in the South China Sea islands was its right as a sovereign country.

The Chinese ministry said the Pentagon report harms mutual trust between the two nations.

“We demand the US side abandons Cold War thinking, objectively and rationally views China’s defense and military construction, stops issuing the relevant reports, and takes actual steps to promote and protect the stable development of military-to-military relations.”

The US-China military ties intended to avert tensions have been tested in the recent months, particularly last May, when the Pentagon disinvited the Chinese from a multinational naval exercise.

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