SINGAPORE, June 6 (UPI) -- China is seeking to allay its neighbors' concerns about its massive military and economic growth.
Addressing the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie insisted that China's progress in its defense and military modernization programs was "within the legitimate need of self-defense," the Business Times reported Monday.
Acknowledging the importance of the forum, Liang is the highest-ranking Chinese official to attend the annual event in its 10-year history, which is organized and hosted by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Liang told forum attendees that even as China's military upgraded its capabilities, it would nevertheless maintain its "rationality of self-restraint, the defensive nature of its defense policy, and its unfailing commitment to peaceful development" and, as Asia's largest economy, China was interested in regional peace and stability "more than anyone else."
China's recent military initiatives in the south China Sea, where it claims sovereignty over the Spratly archipelago, which has overlapping claims by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, have raised concerns among its neighbors that Beijing's rising military capabilities could be used to enforce Chinese claims in such disputes despite Beijing's claims of peaceful intentions.