China has hit out at the growing military build-up of the US and Australia, warning the alliance is contributing to strategic “uncertainties” in the Indo-Pacific region.
In its national defence white paper, China’s National Defence in the New Era, Beijing warned strategic competition in the region was on the rise.
“Australia continues to strengthen its military alliance with the US and its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific, seeking a bigger role in security affairs,” the report said.
The paper marked the first comprehensive outline of the Chinese Government’s policies since President Xi Jinping came to power more than six years ago.
It’s the 10th white paper of its kind since 1998. The last one was published in 2011, two years before Mr Xi became president.
The US deployment of a missile defence system in South Korea had severely undermined the regional strategic balance, the report said.
It further noted Japan’s reinterpretation of its post-World War II constitution to allow its military to operate farther from its shores.
China’s military expansion in recent years has prompted concerns among other Pacific countries in a region long dominated by the US Navy.
China’s development of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, in particular, has been seen as an effort to deter US military and naval access to parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
“China exercises its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea and to conduct patrols in the waters of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea,” the white paper said, referring to disputed waters as well as islands that Japan calls the Senkaku Islands.
In the paper, China also accused the US of undermining global stability with unilateral policies and “power politics”.
The US was the first country mentioned in the document’s opening section about “prominent destabilising factors” and “profound changes” in the international security environment.
“The US has adjusted its national security and defence strategies and adopted unilateral policies,” China said in the document.
“It has provoked and intensified competition among countries, significantly increased its defence expenditure … and undermined global strategic stability.”
The document said China would not renounce the use of force in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland and vowed to take all necessary military measures to defeat “separatists”.
China listed among its top priorities its resolve to contain “Taiwan independence” and combat what it considers separatist forces in Tibet and the far west region of Xinjiang.
While highlighting China’s “defensive” approach, the report also pledged to “surely counter-attack if attacked”.
Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the threat of Taiwan separatism was growing and warned those seeking the democratic island’s independence would meet a dead end.
“If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will certainly fight, resolutely defending the country’s sovereign unity and territorial integrity,” Mr Wu said.
Taiwan split from the Communist Party-ruled mainland China amid civil war in 1949. China maintains Taiwan is part of its territory and seeks “complete reunification”.
The US has repeatedly raised Beijing’s ire by selling arms to Taiwan.
While the US does not have formal diplomatic ties with the island, US law requires it to provide Taiwan with sufficient defence equipment and services for self-defence.
Earlier this month, the US tentatively approved the sale of $2.2 billion in arms to Taiwan — a proposal that prompted China to threaten sanctions against the US.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said it made the request in light of a growing military threat from China.
“The Western world, led by the United States, continues to strengthen its ability to contain China,” said Hong Kong-based military analyst Song Zhongping.
US actions on Taiwan, the South China Sea, North Korea and Iran have all contributed to making the US the “initiator” of China’s security concerns, he said.
The release of the white paper at this time was to “warn the Taiwan independence forces and relevant parties in the US that they should not underestimate China’s determination”, Song said.