updated 2/7/2006 7:58:28 AM ET 2006-02-07T12:58:28

China said Tuesday it has formally complained to Washington over a Pentagon report that calls China a potential military threat, and the foreign ministry accused the United States of trying to mislead public opinion.

The report, released Friday, expressed concerns about Beijing’s rising military spending to project power beyond China’s borders.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said the report made “groundless accusations regarding the normal national defense development in China, interferes with China’s domestic affairs and plays up the theory of the Chinese military threat, thereby misleading public opinion.”

Kong said China had made “solemn representations to the U.S. side,” without providing details.

“We are an important force that promotes the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” Kong said. “We have not, do not and will not pose a threat.”

How big is China's budget?
China’s official military budget for 2005 was $30.7 billion, based on current exchange rates, after a decade of double-digit annual increases. But foreign analysts say the true spending is several times that. A Pentagon report last year put the figure at between $50 billion and $70 billion, which it said was the world’s third-highest military budget.

“Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies,” the latest Pentagon report said.

By comparison, President Bush in his budget proposal this week said America’s military budget in 2007 should be $439.3 billion, a 6.9 percent increase over 2006 for the Pentagon. That figure does not include the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

China has spent heavily in recent years to modernize its 2.5 million-member army, focusing on adding high-tech weapons to extend its reach and back up threats to attack rival Taiwan.

“The United States should correct its wrong view and treat China’s peaceful development in an objective and positive manner,” Kong said. “It should stop making groundless remarks and do more to benefit the stable and healthy development of China-U.S. relations.”

Asian governments from Japan to Southeast Asia to India worry about Beijing’s growing military power.

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