(Reuters) – China’s state news agency on Thursday condemned a Pentagon report on China’s growing military might, calling its account of Beijing’s weapons modernisation drive an alarmist “cock-and-bull story”.
The Pentagon’s annual assessment of China’s military strength, which was released on Wednesday, said Beijing appeared to be on track to forge a modern military by 2020, a build-up that could destabilize the Asia-Pacific region.
The Chinese government has yet to give its official response, which is likely to be tersely dismissive, but the state-run Xinhua news agency made a starting shot.
“The allegation is an utterly cock-and-bull story about the Chinese military based on a wild guess and illogical reasoning,” an English-language commentary published by Xinhua said.
“China, which has adhered to a defensive military policy, with its rising economic clout and sprawling commercial and strategic interests around the world, has every right to build a competent military,” the commentary said.
The Pentagon’s report was released days after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden finished a visit to China dominated by mutual vows of cooperation and goodwill. The annual quarrel over the Pentagon report could, at least briefly, dampen the upbeat tone set by Biden’s visit, which focused on economic issues.
Fuelled by China’s booming economy, the People’s Liberation Army’s weapons upgrades in the past decade have exceeded many earlier U.S. forecasts. China’s aircraft carrier programme, cyber warfare capabilities and anti-satellite missiles have unsettled neighbours and Washington.
But China sees its military modernisation as a rightful extension of its growing economic status, and it staunchly defends is military spending as defensive in nature.