US concerned over Chinese growing military might
At a Congressional hearing, the lawmakers and Commander of the US Pacific Command also expressed concern over China`s exploitation of cyberspace for military and non-military purposes.
"China`s growing presence and influence in Asia, and the opportunities and uncertainties that have resulted from it pose the greatest test for USPACOM among its seven challenge areas," said Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Command.
He said "combined with broad maritime and sovereignty claims and incidents with lawful operators in the SCS and ECS, there is ongoing international concern regarding China`s activities in the South China Sea".
Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "China`s rising regional and global influence and rapid military growth, coupled with the over breadth of its claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and its increasing propensity for challenging conflicting claims of its regional neighbours unsettles the region and raises concerns about the prospects for miscalculation".
He said there also are growing concerns about "China`s exploitation of cyberspace for military and for non-military purposes such as use of the internet by Chinese entities to conduct corporate espionage".
Levin said in the current National Defense Authorization Act, "we acted against counterfeit electronic parts in defense systems, most of which came from China."
"Nonetheless, it is important that we continue efforts to engage with the People`s Liberation Army and to attempt to find common ground and to address common concerns," he said.
Admiral Willard said military-to-military relations continue to lag well behind other US-China engagements for various reasons.
He pointed to differences in philosophy regarding the purpose of military-to-military relations in which China emphasizes strategic dialogue and the US seeks comprehensive military contact from the strategic to tactical levels as a way to build confidence.
The top Pentagon official also highlighted China?s tendency to suspend military- to-military ties following US arms sales to Taiwan and, more generally, its linkage between certain US defence policies and continuous bilateral military relations.
Willard also brought to focus the inherent Chinese distrust of US regional intentions resulting in demands that perceived impediments to the relationship be conceded before military relations can advance.
"Despite these challenges, China`s increasing participation in regional and international security activities and forums such as multi-lateral exercises, counter piracy operations, and peacekeeping can foster informal, but useful US-China military engagement," he underlined.
Improvements in China`s military capabilities and the regional uncertainties this has created also test USPACOM`s ability to manage the evolving security dynamics in the Asia Pacific, he noted.
He said the areas in which US national interests or those of US allies and partners are being challenged include cyberspace and space as well as maritime security in the international waters around China.
"China`s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities extend well into the SCS. China asserts these military developments are purely defensive in nature and that it poses no threat to neighbours in the region," the top commander said.