China's ambassador to the United States said Sunday that his country's army is only "semi-mechanized," downplaying perceptions that the booming communist nation is a military threat to its neighbors and the United States.
"China sticks to the path of peaceful development," Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong said on CNN's "Late Edition." "I don't see any reason why ... some people should be worried, should be concerned."
A recent Pentagon report said Chinese military planners are looking at expanding beyond their immediate goal of dominating Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as its own territory. The report said that in the long term, an increasingly modern Chinese military could pose a threat to U.S. and other forces.
China's military spending already is the world's third-highest at $50 billion to $70 billion (Ђ40.6 billion to Ђ57 billion) a year, behind only the United States and Russia, the Pentagon report said.
Zhou acknowledged that while China's military expenditures have increased, "the large part of that is for improving the livelihood of the rank and file" soldier.
In response to reports that China is improving missiles that could reach the United States, Zhou said China's defense capabilities "are very limited, and the armed forces of China are still basically semi-mechanized, not even fully mechanized, let alone information-based, so there is a long way to go for China."
Zhou also condemned a State Department report that said the Chinese government had committed serious human rights abuses, AP reported.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18