US & Canada

China warns US on Asia military strategy

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Media captionPresident Obama: "The tide of war is receding"

China's state media have warned the US against "flexing its muscles" after Washington unveiled a defence review switching focus to the Asia-Pacific.

In an editorial, official news agency Xinhua said President Barack Obama's move to increase US presence in the region could come as a welcome boost to stability and prosperity.

But it said any US militarism could create ill will and "endanger peace".

Mr Obama also plans $450bn (£290bn) in cuts to create a "leaner" military.

Thousands of troops are expected to be axed over the next decade under the far-reaching defence review.

The defence budget could also lose another $500bn at the end of this year after Congress failed to agree on deficit reduction following a debt-ceiling deal in August 2011.

Mr Obama said the "tide of war was receding" in Afghanistan and that the US must renew its economic power.

Regional disputes

However, he told reporters at the Pentagon: "We'll be strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region."

Xinhua said the US role could be good for China in helping to secure the "peaceful environment" it needed to continue its economic development.

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Media captionUS Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on the new challenges for the US military

But it added: "While boosting its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, the United States should abstain from flexing its muscles, as this won't help solve regional disputes.

"If the United States indiscreetly applies militarism in the region, it will be like a bull in a china shop, and endanger peace instead of enhancing regional stability."

BBC Asia analyst Charles Scanlon said the US decision to focus on Asia would have come as no surprise to China's leaders. However, to some in Beijing, it would look like a containment strategy designed to curtail China's growing power.

Beijing officials have yet to comment.

However, the Communist Party's Global Times newspaper said Washington could not stop the rise of China and called on Beijing to develop more long-range strike weapons to deter the US navy.

'Flexible and ready'

The US strategy shifts the Pentagon away from its long-standing doctrine of being able to wage two wars simultaneously.

However, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta emphasised the military would retain its ability to confront more than one threat at a time, and would be more flexible and adaptable than in the past.

Mr Obama said: "The world must know - the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats."

No specific cuts to troop numbers or weapons programmes were announced on Thursday - those are to be presented as part of the federal budget next month.

But a 10-15% reduction to the US Army and the Marine Corps is being considered over the next decade - amounting to tens of thousands of troops, Obama administration officials have told US media.

Initial Republican reaction to the review was negative. Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, California Representative Howard McKeon, said the new policy was a "retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy".

"This is a lead-from-behind strategy for a left-behind America," he said in a statement.

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