Chinese military build up is a cause of concern for the countries in the region, a top American commander said on Tuesday after China announced a 10 per cent increase in its defence budget.
"China's intensive efforts to build, test, and field new aircraft, ships, weapons and supporting systems are of increasing concern to the region," Admiral Sameul J Locklear, commander of the US pacific Command said during a Congressional hearing.
"Chinese naval and maritime law enforcement vessels have been active in recent years in trying to advance China's territorial and maritime claims in the South China and EastChinaSeas," Locklear said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
"China's strong rhetoric about the indisputable nature of its claims, combined with active patrolling by civil and military ships and aircraft in the air and waters surrounding Scarborough Reef and the Senkakus Islands, has raised tensions with the Republic of the Philippines and Japan respectively," he said.
"China has also used other economic and diplomatic tools to pressure those countries to accede to Chinese claims. These actions have resulted in US partners and allies in East Asia seeking additional support and reassurance.
He said he was concerned that the activities around the Senkakus islands could lead to an accident and miscalculation and escalation between China and Japan.
"Elsewhere, in the South China Sea, periodic confrontations between Chinese and Vietnamese ships and Chinese efforts to pressure international companies to not explore for oil and gas raise tensions.
"China has consistently opposed using collaborative diplomatic processes -- such as negotiations of a code of conduct or international arbitration -- to address disputes in the South China Sea, instead insisting on bilateral negotiations," Locklear said.
Responding to lawmakers questions, General C Robert Kehler, Commander of the US Strategic Command, said that a confrontation between the two countries is good for none of them.
"In the case of China, as I've communicated to them when they've asked me this as well, I said first of all you have to recognise that the US is a Pacific nation. We have lots of national interests in this part of the world. We're going to stay here. We're here with our allies. We're concerned about a security environment that protects our interests," he said.
He said the US recognises that China is on the rise, both economically, and as a regional power.
"And we think that we can accommodate China into the economic world, as well as the security world, and that they have the opportunity to come in as a net provider of security and that we're happy to allow that to happen, and we'll actually facilitate them coming in if necessary," Kehler said.
“But they, as all others do, have choices that have to be made, and we're just hopeful that those choices will be ones that bring them in, in a productive way," he said.