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China tells defence forum its military growth is no threat

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HANOI (AFP): China insisted Tuesday its military growth was no threat as Asian and US defence ministers met in Hanoi for their first top-level regional security forum amid concern over Beijing's might.

"China's defence development is not aimed to challenge or threaten anyone, but to ensure its security and promote international and regional peace and stability," China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie told his counterparts.

He said China, which has the largest military force in the world has made a "strategic decision" for long-term peaceful development.

"China pursues a defence policy that is defensive in nature," Liang said, endorsing the aims of the new defence ministers' forum led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"China is positive and open to regional security cooperation and supports ASEAN centrality" in the new forum.

Beijing's increased assertiveness, particularly in the South China Sea, has caused jitters among neighbouring nations as well as the United States, which is also at odds with China over trade and currency issues.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates held talks with Liang Monday in a bid to improve their military ties after China broke off defence contacts in January over Washington's arms deals with Taipei.

"This meeting is a new and important step forward in ASEAN's defence cooperation," said Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, whose country holds the current ASEAN chairmanship.

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China  Defence  Hanoi  
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