Chinese most senior military commander has criticized the U.S. for its excessive spending on defense and also blamed Washington for rising tensions in the South China Sea.

Chen Bingde, Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, made the comments as his American counterpart, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits Beijing to smooth strained relations between the superpowers.

The Hindu, an English language paper in India, reported that after first-round series of talks with Mullen, Chen said they have “different opinions” on various topics, but also found some common ground.

Chen also told reporters at a joint press briefing that the US should be “more modest and prudent in words and deeds,”

Chen also asserted his government’s unhappingess with joint exercises that the US has planned in the dusputerd South China Sea with Philippines and Vietnam.

“The timing of these joint exercises is inappropriate as we see it,” he said.

China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have all staked claims to the sea, which is not only a crucial shipping lane, but is also believed to have a vast amount of oil reserves.

Mullen defended the US exercises.

In the South China Sea, freedom of navigation has never been a problem, he said.
It serves as an excuse to sensationalize the issue. Some countries might be thinking of relying on U.S. support to address the issue -- that's not realistic.”

Chen also highlighted the vast discrepancy between the two countries’ defense budget ($700-billion for the US; versus $95 billion for China).

“I know the U.S. is still recovering from the financial crisis,” Chen said.

“Under such circumstances, it is still spending a lot of money on its military. Isn't that placing too much pressure on the taxpayers? If the U.S. could reduce its military spending a little, and spend more on improving the livelihood of the American people and doing more good things for the world -- wouldn't that be a better scenario?”

Chen further pointed out that China’s military capability is far behind that of the Americans.

We are still 20, 30 years behind the United States, no matter how much we have developed, he said.

For his part, Mullen said the US military will remain in the East Pacific region.

“The U.S. is not going away,” he said. “Our enduring presence in this region has been important to our allies for decades and it will continue to be so.”

But Mullen also mollified his statements by saying China is a “great power”

“With greater military power must come greater responsibility, greater cooperation, and just as important, greater transparency,” he said.

“Without these things, the expansion of military power in your region, rather than making it more secure and stable, could have the opposite effect.”