BEIJING (Reuters) - China Tuesday sought to rebuff Australian concerns about Beijing’s military build-up, saying it was committed to peaceful development. Canberra’s Defence White Paper said China must be more open about its military expansion or risk alarming neighbours, warning security jitters caused by a more capable China would extend far beyond Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.
Australia’s plans include the purchase of 12 advanced new submarines that experts say could alarm China and accelerate an arms race in the Western Pacific.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China was only interested in peace, repeating the government’s standard line when other nations tell of their concern about the growing Chinese defence budget.
“China is going along the path of peaceful development. We pursue a defensive defence policy. China is a positive force for maintaining regional stability and world peace,” Ma said.
“China’s military modernisation will not threaten any country. I think related countries ought to look at this more objectively and without prejudice,” he told a news briefing.
But a report this week in the Global Times, a popular Chinese tabloid that often takes a hawkish slant on foreign policy issues, slammed the white paper for exaggerating the “China threat.”
It quoted Meng Xiangqing, a researcher at the National Defence University in Beijing, where People’s Liberation Army officers receive advanced training, as saying the Australian policy document was “typical of a Western Cold War mentality.”
“On the one hand, it shows that China’s developing military strength has indeed attracted Australia’s concern,” Meng said. “On the other hand, it shows that Australia is constantly seeking to strengthen its ties with the United States.”
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Chris Buckley