Washington: Expressing concerns over the pace at which China is increasing its defence budget and rapidly modernising its armed forces, the Pentagon has said that the aim of the regional hegemon is to limit US`s ability to operate in Western Pacific.
"The concern that we have is the pace of this military expenditure as well as the scope of the investments. China`s investing in a comprehensive modernisation of its military," David Helvey, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for the East Asia Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told Senators during a Congressional hearing.
Responding to questions, Helvey said China`s defence budget now stands at USD 120 billion and has been growing at 10 percent per annum for past two decades now.
"The challenge is that there is not a whole lot of transparency in terms of what China`s military spending," he said.
The US, he said, is paying good attention to a number of capabilities that China is building now.
"China`s investments in its nuclear and nuclear-capable forces is something that we`re watching very carefully; investments in its undersea warfare capabilities, including submarines both nuclear-powered and conventionally diesel-powered submarines, as well as its long-range conventional precision strike weapons systems, both ballistic and cruise missiles," Helvey said.
"These are part and parcel of what we in the Department of Defence refer to as an anti-access and area denial type of strategy, which, if put into place and executed, could be intended to limit the ability of the United States or other militaries from operating in the Western Pacific," the top Pentagon official told lawmakers.
However, the Pentagon official asserted that the recent decision of the Obama Administration to rebalance itself towards the Asia Pacific region is not aimed towards China.
"The rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific is not about China. It`s about what we are doing with our allies and partners in the region, and China can potentially be a partner in this regard. It`s what we`re doing to support and sustain the regional political and economic system that has persisted for the past six decades," he said.
Chairing the Congressional hearing, Senator Benjamin Cardin said the US must continue to engage China in a constructive dialogue and need it to understand and respect the cyber security concerns of the US, he said.
Noting that the US-China relationship is a central part of its overall rebalance efforts, Helvey said the US is continuously pursuing a more sustained and substantive military-to-military relationship.
"We believe it`s not only in the interests of both China and the United States but also in the region as a whole," he said, adding, "In all our discussions with the Chinese we continue to urge the importance of increased communication between our militaries in enhanced transparency about the intentions behind China`s military modernisation."