BEIJING — China’s state media stepped up its criticism on Saturday of the United States’ planned strategic shift into Asia, accusing Washington of being a “troublemaker” responsible for mounting tensions in the region. The commentary in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily echoed the angry comments by the Global Times newspaper on Friday following U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement that Washington will expand its military presence in Asia. The U.S. defense strategy was flagged late last year and is a clear sign of U.S. commitment to the region. U.S. allies and analysts said, however, that China had nothing to fear from the new policy. In the commentary, Rear Admiral Yang Yi wrote “it was clear that the new defense strategy was targeting China and Iran.” “Since the United States began emphasizing in 2009 its ‘return to Asia,’ a variety of events that have threatened regional security have happened, turmoil in the region has occurred one after the other,” Yang wrote in a front-page commentary. “Anyone with an inkling of strategy in their minds can easily see who the region’s security ‘protector’ is, who is the ‘troublemaker’ for the region’s security.” Comments in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, a small circulation edition of the Communist Party’s official paper, do not amount to government policy positions, but broadly reflect official thinking.
China is concerned Washington’s new defense posture, as it turns away from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is aimed at encircling it. The Global Times, a popular tabloid with a nationalist bent, said on Friday that China must not give up on its security presence in Asia. Still, China’s response to the United States’ push to shore up its security presence in Asia was largely restrained last year. After disputes with neighbors in 2010 and with an impending succession preoccupying the Communist Party, Beijing policymakers have avoided diplomatic fireworks. The United States has said it will seek to work with China but will continue to raise security issues like disputed sovereignty in the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion dollars in trade sails annually.
The sea is claimed wholly or in part by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. China is seen as increasingly assertive on the high seas, with several incidents in the region in the past year.