Beijing: Playing down the impact of its USD 106 billion defence budget, China on Monday sought to assure India saying that military expansion is aimed at protecting its national security interests and it will not embark on road to hegemony.

"With a territory of 9.6 million square km, a border of 22,000 km and a continental coastline of 18,000 km, China is a big country and one that has not been completely unified" Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin told a media briefing here on Monday.

He was reacting to concerns expressed by Defence Minister, A K Antony at the Shangri-La dialogue forum in Singapore two days ago over China’s huge defence budget.

"So in line of all this China needs to protect its national security interests. China will not embark on the road of seeking hegemony when it is stronger", he said.

About concerns over the freedom navigation in South China Sea in the light of China's assertions that entire area belonged to it, Liu said China never interrupted free navigation in the region.

"Any one with commonsense and objectivity would be able to see this. Over many years rapid development of countries in this region also show or prove that the navigation freedom in the South China Sea has not been affected by the dispute", he said.

"However, hyping the freedom of navigation issue and confusing this issue with the demarcation of maritime sovereignty will not help address this issue", he said adding that "China will continue to promote and protect the navigation freedom of the South China Sea".

China is a major user of the shipping lanes in South China Sea and the security of this region is of great importance to China as well, he said.
On the impact of US plans to deploy 60 per cent of its naval fleet in the Asia Pacific, the backyard of China as announced by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, Liu said "China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters".

When all parties should be committed to promoting Asia-Pacific peace, stability and development, "it is unfitting to single out military and security agenda items, strengthen military deployment and intensify military alliance", he said.

The Asia Pacific is where the US and Chinese interests converge the most.

"We welcome the constructive role of the US in Asia Pacific and also hope the US side will respect the interests and concerns of all parties in the region including those of China", he said.

"Relevant disputes should be solved through bilateral negotiations and consultations among countries directly involved. We hope the countries outside the region will respect countries directly involved whose intent is to resolve the dispute between themselves", he said.


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