BEIJING, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- China's top leaders joined in observing the 85th anniversary of the founding of its People's Liberation Army, the largest standing army in the world.
The country's official Xinhua News Agency said those taking part in the Tuesday celebration of the 2.5-million strong army included Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Hu, and all members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
China's growing military might and the country's claims of sovereignty in the vital South China Sea have raised concerns among neighboring countries. The United States' attention is being increasingly drawn toward the Asia-Pacific region amid these developments.
The Japanese Defense Ministry, in its annual report Tuesday, said Chinese naval activity in the Pacific is becoming routine, indicating China could attempt to widen its maritime sphere into waters near Japan, including the East China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
To strengthen its South China Sea claims, China last week established the city of Sansha in the region and set up a military garrison.
Japan said relations between China's political elite and its military leadership have been growing complex and "the degree of military influence on foreign-policy decision has been changing," creating diplomatic and military challenges for Japan.
China dismissed Japan's concerns as groundless.
Speaking at the anniversary of the PLA's Aug. 1, 1927, founding, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said the armed forces will continue to improve preparedness and promote independent innovation to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development. A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said earlier the PLA makes an important contribution to maintaining world peace and regional stability.
Writing in Wednesday's issue of China Daily, Xu Hui and Meng Fanli -- professors at the PLA National Defense University -- said neighboring nations with territorial disputes with China "are taking advantage of the United States' strategy of accelerated 'return to the Asia-Pacific' to create trouble with China in an attempt to infringe upon China's territorial sovereignty."
They wrote that under the guise of "maintaining regional stability" and "keeping its commitments to allies," the United States "has increased pressure on China by rearranging its forces deployed abroad, holding joint military exercises with its allies, as well as supplying weapons to regional countries and issuing diplomatic statements."