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China continues to challenge US: Pentagon commander

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WASHINGTON (PTI): Expressing concern over China's growing military capabilities at an impressive rate, a top Pentagon commander has said that Beijing continues to challenge the US and its allies in the region in the maritime, cyber and space domains.

"The PLA (People's Liberation Army) continues to advance its military capabilities at an impressive rate. It's growing bolder with regard to their expanded regional and global presence. And China continues to challenge the United States and our partners in the region in the maritime, cyber and space domains," Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Robert Willard told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing.

The commander said that management of the relationship with China continues to be a challenge at many levels.

"Our military-to-military relationship is not where it should be, although a strategic-level exchange of views with DOD persisted during 2011," Willard said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The US, he said, remains committed to evolving this security relationship with the objective of coexisting peacefully and both contributing constructively to regional security.

"Throughout the Asia Pacific, numerous transnational threats, such as violent extremist organizations, proliferation, trafficking, piracy and perpetual natural and man-made disasters, challenge our nation and our allies and partners in the region," he said.

When Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked on Chinese reaction to the recent American decision to focus on Asia Pacific region, Willard said he hasn't seen China's military growth affected by the announcement, nor do they expect it to be.

"It has continued relatively unabated. The Chinese are obviously very interested in the statement that the United States intends to focus on the Asia Pacific region. I think they see themselves in that statement, you know, perception or not, and will continue to observe very closely for the actions that the United States takes to back up those words," he said.

"In terms of China's buildup, we know what it's been in the last average of, what, 18.75 per cent a year now. I remember back during the Clinton administration when they were even more aggressive than that. Did I understand you to say that you don't witness the growth in their capabilities, or you do? Would you clarify your statement as to your observation as to what China's threat is and capabilities?" asked Senator James Inhofe.

"I think I tried to characterise it as growth unabated, so they continue to advance their capabilities and capacities in virtually all areas," the Pacific Command Commander said.

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