China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie reassured Asian nations and Western powers that his country's growing military posed no threat to the world.
Liang’s comments came after Beijing announced on Sunday that one of its fighter jets landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time.
China's "first generation multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet," known as the J-15, successfully completed its first landing on the Liaoning, an aircraft carrier that China built using an abandoned Soviet hull, China's official news agency Xinhua reported.
The J-15's capabilities are comparable to those of the Russian Su-33 jet and the U.S. F-18, and it can carry multi-type anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and precision-guided bombs, the report said.
The U.S. military, in its latest annual assessment of China's military capability, predicted that "it will still take several additional years for China to achieve a minimal level of combat capability for its aircraft carriers,” CNN reported. "China likely will build multiple aircraft carriers and associated support ships over the next decade.”
The U.S. reassured its allies that Washington would act to counterbalance China's growing influence in the Asia Pacific region as part of its pivot to Asia foreign policy strategy that was developed in the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking to Reuters in Beijing about growing concerns among China’s Asian neighbors and in the U.S. over Beijing's expanding military capabilities, Liang said, "There is absolutely no need for that [concern]."
"The Chinese military must develop, but there's no 'worry' or 'fear' as the outside world says," he said before a meeting with visiting U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. "That's not what China is about."
China’s Defense Ministry said Mabus had met with Liang as part of a four-day visit but gave no other details apart from their agenda, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking before the scheduled meeting with Mabus, Liang told Reuters that the cooperation between Beijing and Washington was vital.
"We should develop the ties between us, between our two militaries, touch on some of our differences, resolve conflicting views," Liang said. "We should push forward the development of our two powers, and push forward the development of a new China-U.S. military relationship. Our two countries' ties are very important."
U.S. officials reiterated that the country's strategic shift in its foreign policy in the region was not targeted at Beijing, while it added that better defense cooperation with China was important to sustain peace in the region.
The public bickering among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines, which is an ally of the U.S. in the region, over the handling of territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea and what role Washington should play in resolving them, had overshadowed the recent East Asia Summit, a forum that includes countries beyond the boundaries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
However, President Barack Obama, in his first meeting with China’s outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao since U.S. presidential elections were held in early November, overlooked the maritime disputes between the Southeast and East Asian nations and instead emphasized the need to establish clear rules for trade and investment between the U.S. and China.