China says US hyping threat to justify arms race

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s Defence Ministry on Friday (March 22) accused the United States of deliberately seeking to hype up the threat from China and other nations to justify rising military expenditure, calling the move short-sighted and dangerous.

US President Donald Trump’s US$750 billion (S$1.01 trillion) defence spending request to Congress is the largest ever in dollar terms, though not after being adjusted for inflation, and is meant to counter the growing strength of the Chinese and Russian militaries.

By comparison, China this month unveiled a hike of 7.5 per cent in defence spending for the year, to 1.19 trillion yuan (S$239.47 billion), though many experts and diplomats say the real figure is probably far higher. China denies that.

In a statement, China’s Defence Ministry reiterated its standard line about being committed to a peaceful path, and said the United States loved to talk up the “China threat theory”.

“We have noted that when the US Defence Department is fighting for military spending, it always likes petty niggling, trying to get even more benefit for itself by exaggerating the threat posed by other countries,” it said.

“This is short-sighted and extremely dangerous,” it added.

It urged the United States to cast aside Cold War thinking, and take steps to promote the healthy and stable development of two-way ties between the two militaries.

The two countries frequently say they are committed to a sound military-to-military relationship, but their armed forces have seen some tense stand-offs in recent years, particularly in the disputed South China Sea, where the US Navy conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

China is also deeply opposed to US arms sales to self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its sacred territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

Responding to reports the Trump administration has approved the sales of more F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday said the government had already lodged “stern representations” with the United States.

“We urge the US side to fully acknowledge the extreme sensitivity of the relevant issue, and extreme harmfulness of it,” he added.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will stop over in Hawaii next week at the end of a tour of the Pacific, to China’s anger.

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