AP has the story -- China has its knickers in a knot over the U.S. assessment of its military plans. Tsk, tsk -- touch a little nerve there, did we?
China denounced a U.S. government report that Beijing wants to expand its regional military power, insisting Wednesday it is no threat to its neighbors and accusing Washington of looking for excuses to sell weapons to rival Taiwan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it filed a protest with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing over the Pentagon report.
"The report has baselessly attacked China's modernization of its national defense," Deputy Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement, accusing Washington of looking for "an excuse to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan."
The Pentagon report said Chinese military planners are looking at expanding beyond their immediate goal of dominating Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as its own territory. It said that in the long term, an increasingly modern Chinese military could pose a threat to U.S. and other forces.
"Some of China's military planners are surveying the strategic landscape beyond Taiwan," said the 45-page annual assessment of China's military strength.
Earlier Thursday, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said China is intent on "developing in a peaceful way" when asked about the U.S. report.
"Not only is China not a threat to anyone, but we would also like to make friends with people in every country, work together and develop mutually beneficial cooperation in order to facilitate everyone's progress," Li said.
Asian governments from Japan to Southeast Asia to India worry about Beijing's growing military power, driven by a booming economy and double-digit annual spending increases.
China's military spending already is the world's third-highest at $50 billion to $70 billion a year, behind only the United States and Russia, the Pentagon report said.
Yang criticized that comparison, noting that spending on China's 2.5 million-member People's Liberation Army is far below the Pentagon's $400 billion-a-year budget.
"The United States is not qualified to criticize China's defensive national defense policy," Yang's statement said.
He said the report was "meticulously planned" by the Pentagon to spread fear of China and warned Washington not to encourage activists on Taiwan who want formal independence.
Beijing is modernizing its arsenal with fighter jets, submarines, missiles and other high-tech weapons -- many of them bought from Russia -- to back up its frequent threats to attack Taiwan.
But a senior Pentagon official said although China's military might is growing, he sees no reason to think that Beijing is interested in starting a war.
"You judge military threat in two ways: one, capacity and two, intent. There's lots of countries in the world that have the capacity to wage war," said Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Very few have the intent to do so. Clearly, we have a complex, but good relationship with China, so there's absolutely no reason for us to believe there's any intent on their part."
China's short-term goal remains deterring Taiwan from pursuing formal independence and eventually uniting the island with the mainland, the Pentagon report said. Taiwan and China split in 1949, but Beijing claims the self-ruled island as its own territory.
The United States has cautioned both governments not to force a change in the status quo.
Washington has no official ties with Taiwan but is the democratic island's main arms supplier and could be drawn into any fighting with the communist mainland.
Yang's statement affirmed that Beijing wants to unite peacefully with Taiwan. But he also repeated its warning that Beijing "will never tolerate Taiwan independence and will never allow anyone in any way to split Taiwan from China.