A mainland think tank has issued hawkish reports on the US and Japanese militaries, warning China of possible American interference in South China Sea disputes and Japan's preparations for any confrontation over the Diaoyu Islands.
The two reports by the Beijing-based Chinese Strategic Culture Promotion Association are the first attempts at military-strength evaluation by a non-government think tank on the mainland.
The reports, which the association says are mainly based on publicly available information, raise pointed questions about the intentions of Washington and Tokyo in the region.
The report on the US military said that Washington was intent on remaining the world's biggest military power, and urged Beijing to remain alert about America's 'return to Asia' strategy.
'Since the US claims it will shift its strategic [focus] to the East, we would like to ask it, 'Who is your new target in the East?'' the think tank's executive vice-president, Luo Yuan, a retired People's Liberation Army major general, told China Central Television on the sidelines of a press conference on Tuesday at which the reports were released.
'In the Asia-Pacific, which country [warrants] the US deploying 60 per cent of its naval warships? Why do you send six of your 11 aircraft carriers and 60 per cent of your nuclear submarines to the region? You said you are not targeting China, so who else?' Luo added.
The other report described the Japanese Self-Defence Forces as a medium-sized and well-funded army with advanced weapons and technology. The army recently intensified efforts to contain China, it said.
But Professor Ni Lexiong, a military expert at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Luo and his colleagues had exaggerated Japan's ambitions for the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan.
'Japan dares not challenge China because we are still one of the nuclear powers in the world,' Ni said. 'It's possible that Japan and China might have small-scale military friction over the Diaoyu issue in the future, but both Beijing and Tokyo would try to stop it from escalating because it's not worth sacrificing the two countries' economic co-operation and development for just a few islands.'
The analyst said China, Japan and the US shared many common interests and 'we can't review their relations just from a military angle'.
Luo said the two reports were responses to 'irresponsible and exaggerated comments' about China's military in earlier reports by the Pentagon and Japan's defence ministry, which regularly keep track of the Chinese military's development. Often, these reports add fire to the theory that China is emerging as a military threat against them, Luo said.
The think tank reports also encourage more dialogue between China, the US and Japan to prevent misunderstandings.