Beijing plays down concern about its military rise
It will take a peaceful course
BEIJING, July 5 (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry sought on Thursday to deflect Australian concern that Beijing's rapid military expansion might cause greater instability in the region.
A new defence strategy paper launched by Prime Minister John Howard on Thursday said China's military modernisation, particularly development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite missile, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region.
Asked about the paper by reporters at a regular briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: "The Chinese government has repeatedly stated that China will be unwavering in taking the peaceful course of development."
Australia, a close U.S. ally, has been dovish so far about China's military and economic development. But the new doctrine brought Howard's government into closer step with Japan and the United States, both partners with Australia in security pacts.
Asked about the apparent policy shift, Qin quoted from earlier comments made by Howard and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer which welcomed China's development and saw no need to be overly worried about its defence spending.
"Whether it's Prime Minister Howard's or Minister Downer's comments, they are the most fitting response to your question," Qin said.
"A country's foreign policy and defence documents should be consistent."
Even so, he said relations with Canberra were developing well and said Beijing was willing to seek to further improve ties.
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