US presence in Asia-Pacific will raise tensions

Beijing: Unhappy with American plans to shift a bulk of its naval fleet to Asia Pacific by 2020, China today warned the US to refrain from muddying the waters in South China Sea, saying the move will raise tensions in the region.

While there was no official reaction from Beijing yet to US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta`s announcement at Singapore yesterday about increasing American presence in Asia Pacific, a commentary by China`s official news agency Xinhua said the move will increase tensions in the region.

"Many are concerned that ever-expanding US military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific will raise tensions with other big powers in the region, notably China, the biggest trade partner of many countries in the region and an emerging world power," the commentary said. "It is advisable for some to refrain from muddying the waters and fishing therein and for some others to desist from dancing behind a Pied Piper whose magic tone, as tempting as it is, might lead its followers astray," Xinhua said.

It also scoffed at Panetta`s reiteration that growing involvement of US in the region would not pose a challenge to China, saying that such assertions by US officials in the past remained `sweet words`. "Other US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have repeatedly said the United States welcomes a strong and prosperous China. As a Chinese saying goes, one should be judged not only by what he says but also by what he does," it said.

"With Washington strengthening military alliances with countries in the region, usually with an implicit focus on China, many Chinese analysts are cautious about taking what US officials say at their face value," it said, apparently referring to the current conflict with the Philippines, an ally of the US over the disputed islands in South China Sea.

China claims that the entire South China Sea in the Pacific belongs to it. The claim runs counter to Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan`s assertions of 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). "The United States must understand it will not only be judged by what it proclaims that its `pivot to Asia` strategy will bring to the Asia-Pacific, but also by what it really does in the region," the commentary said.

"Till now, sweet words have yet to turn into reality. Many in China are legitimately worried that the United States attempts to contain China with cold-war style military alliances and endless war games in the region. Only when US walks the talk rather than talks the talk, can it convince countries in the Asia-Pacific that its new strategy will help promote peace and stability in the region," it said.

The much-hyped China threat to the freedom of navigation in South China Sea is a pure invention, it said, adding that "China has seen its political, economic and military strengths growing markedly, fabricating new claims is not in its blood,". It was Beijing`s "genuine wish" to turn the South China Sea "into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, not to make waves in South China Sea," it said.