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Power Politics in the Pacific: Will China Challenge US Dominance of the Seas?

report from aboard a US warship on China's naval assertiveness that is prompting regional and US concerns.

by Steve Chao

China's growing military assertiveness has alarmed its neighbours and prompted the US to keep a high profile on Asian waters. It has been pressing claims on disputed waters and seeking new weapons and warships. Liang Guanglie, the Chinese defence minister, said on Wednesday that the country's booming economy is driving its military might.

"In the next five years, our economy and society will develop faster, boosting comprehensive national power," Liang said. "We will take the opportunity and speed up modernisation of the military."

Liang said China's military would continue to advance its capability to fight and win high-tech wars, while also boosting its conventional arsenal.

He said the the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army plans to do this all without foreign aid.

"We will stand on our own feet to solve the problem and develop our equipment," Liange said, "The modernisation of the Chinese military cannot depend on others, and cannot be bought."

China's increasing military spending has generated concern among its neighbours, but Chinese officials insist that they are only interested in peace and that its naval build-up is not a threat.

The US, however, sees Beijing as a potential threat to its once unrivalled dominance of the Pacific.

China ended military relations with Washington a year ago in protest against a multi-billion-dollar US arms package for rival Taiwan.

The two nations have since resumed low-level military contacts at a technical level, but Liange has invited his US counterpart, Robert Gates, for talks in Beijing from January 9-12 agains a backdrop of increased tensions in Northeast Asia.

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao joined the Seventh Fleet aboard the USS George Washington in the Pacific Ocean from where he filed this report:

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