China on Sunday accused the US of "severely damaging" mutual trust as it hit back at the Pentagon for issuing a "hyped up" report on Chinese military capabilities that "deliberately distorts" its defence policies.
China also expressed "strong dissatisfaction" and "firm opposition" to the annual report, which it said, has misrepresented the country' military development.
In its report submitted to the Congress on Friday, the Defence Department noted that China is using "coercive tactics" and fostering regional tensions as it expands its maritime presence in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) and elsewhere. It said China is focussing on the militarisation of artificial islands built by it in the SCS in a bid to assert its control.
China hit back, with the Defence Spokesman Col Yang Yujun accusing the Pentagon's annual report as misrepresentation of its military development that "hypes up China's military threat".
The report on China's military and security developments has "severely damaged" mutual trust between the two sides, Yang said, urging the US side to take tangible actions to promote the healthy and stable development of relations between the two countries and their armed forces.
The US which accused the Chinese military of lacking in transparency, "deliberately distorted" China's defence policies, and "unfairly depicted" its activities in the East China Sea and SCS, Yang said.
"China follows a national defence policy that is defensive in nature. Moves such as deepening military reforms and the military buildup are aimed at maintaining sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, and guaranteeing China's peaceful development," Yang said in a statement.
He added that the US side has always been suspicious.
In his statement, he said it is the US which has been flexing military muscles by frequently sending military aircraft and warships to the region.
Despite its call for the freedom of navigation and restraint for peace, the US pushed forward the militarisation in the SCS with an intention to exert hegemony, Yang said.
China has unswervingly made contributions to global peace and stability by increasingly engaging in overseas missions such as peace-keeping and disaster relief, he added.
Yang stressed China's construction on the Nansha (Spratly) Islands in the SCS serves mostly civilian purposes, and helps fulfil its international responsibilities and obligations by providing more public goods.
The SCS has become a major flash point for military tensions between China and the US in recent years as Beijing which claims sovereignty over almost all of the disputed waters sought to assert its claim by building artificial islands with military facilities. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan contest China's claims.
Backing the small states, the US has so far sent three war ships through the waters around the artificial islands to assert the right for freedom navigation.
The Pentagon report submitted to the US Congress on Saturday alleged that China was focused on developing and weaponising the islands built in the disputed waters of the SCS to retain greater control over the maritime region without resorting to armed conflict.
It accused China of "increasingly assertive efforts to advance its national sovereignty and territorial claims" and a lack of transparency about its growing military capabilities that are causing tensions with other countries in the region.