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China Daily Website

New US defense policy challenges trust

Updated: 2012-01-07 07:16
By Li Lianxing, Ma Liyao and Tan Yingzi ( China Daily)

WASHINGTON / BEIJING - US President Barack Obama's revamped national defense strategy may challenge mutual trust with China, experts said.

While promising to make the US armed forces smaller and leaner, Obama pledged to shift the country's military focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

The nation's military review says that US economic and security interests are "inextricably" connected with the area and the US military accordingly will "of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region", including strengthening Asian allies and investing in the strategic partnership with India.

Though Washington recognizes that the United States and China share common interests and stakes in the region, it fears China's rise will affect its economy and security in many ways and it worries about the strategic intention of China's military buildup, according to the review.

The assertive moves by the US may cause potential military tensions between China and the US, said Yuan Peng, an expert of American studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"China has repeatedly explained its defensive policy, but the US keeps pressuring China. This may irritate China and lead to negative reactions if the US continues to do so," Yuan said.

"However, we need to be clear that the draft of the plan, as a whole, is not China-centered, though it is somehow offending that the document puts China in a similar position with Iran," Yuan said.

In the 10 primary missions of the US armed forces listed in the draft of the plan, published on the US Department of Defense website, China was mentioned with Iran - a country labeled as a member of "the axis of evil" by former US president George W. Bush.

"Why does the US want to shift its focus to Asia-Pacific as the region has been the most peaceful area compared with other areas which saw conflicts and wars in the last three decades?" asked Xu Hui, professor with Beijing-based National Defense University.

The US military faces $450 billion in budget cuts through 2021, including about $261 billion through 2017, part of the administration's effort to put the US fiscal house in order.

But "budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region", Obama said at the news conference.

After the war in Iraq came to an end last month and as the US is winding down its presence in Afghanistan, Obama said the nation can now meet the new challenges, especially from the Asia-Pacific region.

"Our military will be leaner, but the world must know: The United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats," Obama said.

In the document, the US listed China as one of the countries that will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter America's power projection capabilities.

Although the Chinese government did not comment on the US review on Friday, the country had said earlier that it welcomes the US playing a positive role in the region, but it opposes Washington's involvement in disputes in the South China Sea.