U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on his way to Singapore to attend the 10th annual Asia Security Summit, his last official trip overseas before leaving office at the end of June.
Gates, in a briefing to reporters, said Beijing was working on military capabilities that were of concern to the United States. He added, however, that Washington didn't see Chinese aspirations as a threat.
"I think that the Chinese have learned powerful lessons from the Soviet experience and they do not intend to try to compete with us across the full range of military capabilities," he said. "But I think they are intending to build capabilities that give them a considerable freedom of action in Asia and the opportunity to extend their influence."
Gates during a visit to Hawaii earlier this week said the United States would "remain engaged" in the Pacific. U.S. ambitions in the region wouldn't get in the way of China's geopolitical influence, he said.
"We are not trying to hold China down," he said. "China has been a great power for thousands of years. It is a global power and will be a global power."