The U.S. and Japan are worried about China's buildup of naval forces and armory, which threatens their domination of the Pacific.
In an annual report titled "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China" submitted to Congress on Monday, the U.S. Defense Department said the Chinese Navy "is at the forefront of efforts to extend operational reach beyond China's regional waters. [Its] investment in platforms such as nuclear-powered submarines and progress toward its first aircraft carrier... suggest China is seeking to support additional missions beyond a Taiwan contingency."
The report points out that the People's Liberation Army "has been developing new platforms and capabilities that will extend its operational reach to address other concerns within the East and South China Seas, and possibly to the Indian Ocean and beyond the second island chain in the western Pacific."
A new Chinese Navy base on Hainan Island is "essentially complete," the report says. It is large enough for "a mix of attack and ballistic missile submarines and advanced surface combatants." The report warns that China has an aircraft carrier research and development program and its shipbuilding industry could start construction of a carrier by the end of this year.
"Current trends in China's military capabilities are a major factor in changing East Asian military balances," the report added.
Tokyo has similar worries. The Japanese government decided to hold detailed talks with the U.S. about a response to China's naval buildup in a "U.S.-Japan joint declaration on security" in November, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the official China Daily on Tuesday reported Beijing and Tokyo have been holding talks to set up "a maritime emergency hotline with Japan to prevent civilian and military clashes in the East China Sea and other waters" at Beijing's suggestion.