Beijing has protested the Pentagon’s national strategy report that “smears” China as the primary security threat to the US, the Chinese defence ministry said on Friday. “The countries that stubbornly prioritise their own interests above anyone else and gang up on an ‘integrated deterrence’ in the Asia Pacific are the real ‘pacing challenge’ to the international system and the region,” ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said, using phrases from the report. Tan was responding to the 2022 National Defence Strategy (NDS) released by the Pentagon last week, which declared China a “pacing challenge” to focus on in collaboration with its allies and partners. “The most comprehensive and serious challenge to US national security,” the report stated, was China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive endeavour to refashion the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to suit its interests and authoritarian preferences”. China, it continued, “seeks to undermine US alliances and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, and leverage its growing capabilities, including its economic influence and the PLA’s growing strength and military footprint, to coerce its neighbours and threaten their interests”. Worsening China-US relations ‘raise risk’ of conflict in Asia-Pacific “The PRC’s increasingly provocative rhetoric and coercive activity towards Taiwan are destabilising, risk miscalculation and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” it said, adding that “this is part of a broader pattern of destabilising and coercive PRC behaviour” in the region. Tan said the NDS was vilifying the normal military growth of China, and that China had adhered to peaceful development and firmly safeguarded the international system centred with the United Nations. “A strong Chinese army is … also a steadfast force to maintain world and regional peace and stability,” he said. Tan reiterated Beijing’s position on Taiwan that the island belongs to China, that the issue is an internal affair, and that any foreign intervention is not permitted. “At present, the Americans are continuously hollowing out the one-China principle and intensifying their efforts to ‘use Taiwan to control China’. These bad acts seriously infringe China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and seriously endanger peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region,” he said. “The PLA will carry on training and preparation for war, to resolutely resist any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ activities or interference by external forces.” Included in the unclassified version of the NDS were public versions of the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Review and Nuclear Posture Review, which noted China’s nuclear expansion, which it said “present[s] new complexities”. “It may be necessary to consider nuclear strategy and force adjustments to assure our ability to achieve deterrence and other objectives” concerning China, the NPR stated. Despite Russia’s war, China still top threat to US, Pentagon says The Chinese foreign ministry last week said such policy “adjustments” would stimulate a nuclear arms race. Tan said that China sticks to its defensive nuclear strategy and no-first-use principle and has “maintained the nuclear capability at the minimum level required for national security” as well as participating in international nuclear disarmament procedures. “On the contrary, the United States has broken its promises and withdrawn from the treaties of arms control and non-proliferation; accelerated the upgrading of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery; lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons; and cooperated with Britain and Australia on nuclear submarines, thus aggravating the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region,” he said. Tan said that the US should be “objective and pragmatic” about China’s development of its military “and do more to help maintain world and regional peace”.