Washington: The United States needs to watch "very carefully" the rise of the Chinese military and how it integrates into the regional security environment, a top American military commander told lawmakers amid apprehensions over its military build-up and increase in defence spending.
"I think we do have to watch very carefully how the China military rises, what they do with that military, and how that military is integrated into the security environment," Admiral Samuel Locklear, the Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
One of the aspects of the US re-balance to the Asia-Pacific region is to ensure that it has the "right force posture" and the "right force mixture" for the future so that they can reassure their allies, and the American people that their interests are protected over there, Locklear said.
China, he said, is neither a friend nor a foe at this time. "I consider them at this point in time in the terms of those two terms, neither," Locklear said in reply to a question of Senator Lindsay Graham.
Graham alleged that the Chinese behaviour is not only provocative, but also it is "obscene".
"They`re stealing American intellectual property. They`re attacking us every day through cyberspace. They`re propping up one of the most dangerous regimes in the world that directly threaten our interests," the senator said.
"I just wish you would share with the Chinese that there`s a growing frustration here in Congress with the way they behave and we would like to have a more matured China as part of the international community, a China that would bring out the best in the world, not reinforce what`s dangerous about it," Graham told the PACOM Commander.
Meanwhile, Senator James Inhofe, expressed his concern
over the increasing Chinese defence budget, which he said would jump by 10.7 per cent in 2013.
"In the 1990s when they increased their defence spending during that decade by 300 per cent, at the same time that we reduced ours by about 30 per cent. This is not a partisan thing. This is after the Cold War. A lot of people felt that we could afford to reduce it and we did. We went down 30 per cent in that decade. They went up 300 per cent. Now we`re facing the same thing," he said.
China`s continued rise in regional and global influence, coupled with its military modernisation and growth, has drawn justifiable attention from the Department of Defence, said Senator Carl Levin.
"China`s pursuit of capabilities that extend the reach of its military raises concerns about their intentions, particularly in the context of that country`s increasing willingness to assert its controversial claims of sovereignty in areas of the South China Sea and the East China Sea," he said.
"In addition, China`s lack of regard for the intellectual property rights of the United States and other nations remains a huge problem for the global community. China remains the leading source of counterfeit parts, both in military systems and in the commercial sector," he said.
Locklear said with the rise of China, the US is looking to a future where the US interests and those of its allies are protected in Asia- Pacific.
"But we have to also expect that China will integrate into that security environment. They have to. There`s really not another good option," the PACOM Commander added.