China dismisses U.S. concerns on military rise

Wed Jul 20, 2005 6:54 AM BST

BEIJING (Reuters) - China' Foreign Minister dismissed on Wednesday a Pentagon report warning that its modernising military could pose a threat to the region, and said its rise would be peaceful.

The report reflects concern in Washington over China's growing military and economic power, and in particular the fear a changing balance of power in Asia could threaten Taiwan, the self-governed island Beijing claims as its own.

"China, remember, will continue to pursue a path of peaceful development," Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said at a signing ceremony to establish the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beijing.

"China not only poses no threat to anyone, we also are willing to establish friendship and all kinds of win-win cooperation with other countries to push forward cooperative development," Li said in response to a question about the Pentagon report.

The Pentagon report said Beijing's military buildup had already begun to change the regional balance of power but it also said its ability to project conventional power was limited and China did not have the capability to re-take Taiwan by force.

Beijing considers Taiwan a part of China, and in March passed an anti-secession law authorising it to use "non-peaceful means" to bring it back into the fold should the island democracy of 23 million move toward formal independence.

The Taiwan issue puts the U.S. in a quandary, with Washington having vowed to defend the island should China attack it, but also recognising Beijing as China's sole legitimate government.

Last week, a Chinese general was quoted as saying China was ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States should Washington attack over Taiwan, remarks the U.S. criticised as "irresponsible".

China also shrugged off on Wednesday an agreement earlier this week in which Washington promised India full cooperation in developing its civilian nuclear power programme without demanding it sign the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The agreement was seen as a counterbalance to China's rise, but the Foreign Ministry had little reaction.

"We hope the relevant cooperation between China and India will benefit the safeguarding of peace and stability in the Asian region," it said in a statement faxed to Reuters.