China plays down military strength
The strength of China's armed forces is 20 years behind the US and although the military is developing new capabilities, it is not a threat to peace in Asia, the Chinese defence minister has said.
China's military will not be used aggressively against its neighbours, General Liang Guanglie said at an Asian security conference in Singapore.
"I know many people tend to believe that with the growth of China's economy, China will become a military threat," Gen Liang said. "China will never seek hegemony or military expansion.
"This is a solemn pledge made by the Chinese government to the international community," he added.
Gen Liang met on Friday with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Singapore amid increasing high-level contacts between the militaries of the two countries.
Gen Liang is the highest-ranking Chinese military official to attend the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, now in its 10th year.
"China and the US have made great progress in bilateral relations," Gen Liang said. "All of us are very optimistic about the future of bilateral and military-to-military relations."
Gen Liang sought to downplay recent increased Chinese military spending, insisting the nation's capabilities remain far behind those of developed countries. "Our defence force is more modern and developed. However, there still exists a big gap," he said. "There's a generational gap."
China is working privately with North Korean officials to try to revive stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks that involve the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the US, Gen Liang said.
"The work we have done with North Korea is much more than what the outside world may expect," he said. "The situation is moving toward relaxation, but the foundation remains fragile," Gen Liang said. "We need to cool things down."