WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A U.S. congressional advisory panel on China, citing Beijing's military buildup, warned its naval forces could dominate the western Pacific by 2020.
In its annual report to Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China wants to challenge U.S. dominance in the Pacific.
The panel asked U.S. lawmakers to increase defense funding so more military resources can be concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region, The Hill reported. The panel wants the Navy to add at least 60 more ships in the region.
Major elements of China's military modernization "are really designed to restrict U.S. freedom of action throughout the western Pacific," Commissioner Larry Wortzel said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, The Hill reported.
Commission Vice Chairman Dennis Shea said his biggest concern about China's military buildup is that it appeared to be aimed at asserting Chinese influence over the western Pacific.
China already has territorial disputes with U.S. allies in the region such as Japan and the Philippines.
"They're trying to deny access to the western Pacific for U.S. forces ... and basically remove the United States as the predominant military force in that region of the world," Shea said.
The Hill reported the panel's recommendations were in line with the U.S. Navy's own plans outlined last year by former Defense Leon Panetta, calling for having 60 percent of naval forces in the Pacific by 2020, up from 50 percent currently.
Panetta's plans would include six aircraft carriers in the region and deploying a majority of U.S. cruisers, destroyers, combat ships and submarines.
Some lawmakers warned against any confrontation with China.
"There is no reason that we should have China as an enemy," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the committee, The Hill reported. "We should certainly look for ways to work together and I think we have an increasing number of common interests in terms of peace and stability."