China says Pentagon report will hurt military ties

BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States’ latest report on China’s growing military power throws new obstacles in the way of restoring defense ties between the two powers, a Chinese spokesman said in the latest broadside at Washington.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) recruits stand still as they use fingers to press playing cards to their trousers during a training session at a military base in Hefei, Anhui province December 23, 2008. REUTERS/Jianan Yu

Beijing has already voiced its unhappiness with the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military capabilities, released this week.

But now Hu Changming, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, has said his government’s anger over the report could have real implications for plans to improve military contacts, which took a dive last year over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

“At present, there are still a great many obstacles to the development of ties between the two militaries that have not been overcome,” Hu said in a statement issued by the official Xinhua news agency late on Thursday.

“In these circumstances, the U.S. publication of the report on Chinese military power can only add new negative factors to the restoration and development of those military ties.”

Both sides were moving toward upgrading military contacts after months of icy anger from China over U.S. military sales to Taiwan. A Pentagon official, David Sedney, had said defense talks last month between them were candid and helpful.

China says Taiwan is an illegitimate breakaway province that must accept reunification, by force if necessary.

Beijing and Washington have also recently jostled over U.S. navy activities in waters China claims as its exclusive economic zone. President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao will meet for the first time next week, during the G20 summit in London.

The Pentagon report said the People’s Liberation Army was making advances in denying outsiders access to offshore areas and was improving its nuclear, space and cyber warfare capabilities.

“China has always unwaveringly taken the path of peaceful development,” Chinese spokesman Hu countered. “We will not participate in any form of arms race and do not constitute a threat to any country.”

He also urged Washington to stop issuing the annual reports on China’s military. Those reports are mandated by U.S. law.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani