China's foreign ministry on Monday accused the US of continuing to spread a 'China threat' in a new military report, and attempting to "interfere with China's internal affairs."
The report to US Congress on China's military power, released on Friday, "exaggerates China's military strength and expenditure with ulterior motives", ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement.
"It disseminates the 'China threat' theory, severely violates the norms of international relations and wantonly interferes with China's internal affairs," Jiang said.
The US Defence Department report said China's military expansion and modernization were a "major factor in changing East Asian military balances, and could provide China with a force capable of prosecuting a range of military operations in Asia - well beyond Taiwan."
It said the balance of forces across the Taiwan Strait was "continuing to shift in the [Chinese] mainland's favour."
Jiang said China's military build-up was to "safeguard national security and territorial integrity" and she reiterated the ruling Communist Party's claim to Taiwan as an "inalienable part of Chinese territory."
The US report said tension could increase in the next few months as Taiwan prepares for a presidential election planned for March 2008.
It also highlighted China's lack of transparency over military issues, its development of greater capacity for military pre-emption, and its pursuit of a "robust, multi-dimensional counter-space programme."
Jiang said China would continue to seek "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan but would "never tolerate Taiwan independence and allow any secessionist activities."
She also urged the United States to stop selling arms to Taiwan.
Much of China's military hardware is deployed against Taiwan, which Beijing has regarded as a renegade province since 1949 when Nationalist troops fled to the island after losing a civil war to the Communists.
The Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to help Taiwan to defend itself, though Washington would not necessarily intervene if China attacked the island.