CNN’s Liz Neisloss contributed to this report.
The United States is “not in step with the times” in seeking to bolster its military presence in the Pacific region, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Spokesman Lie Weimin’s statement comes on the heels of the weekend announcement by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that 60% of the U.S. naval fleet will sail the Pacific by 2020.
The change is part of President Barack Obama’s decision to reorient the United States’ strategic attention to the economically vital Pacific after a decade of war in the Middle East.
The fleet is currently divided evenly between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, Panetta said.
Weimin welcomed a U.S. role in the region, so long as the country respects the interests of China and other countries there. But he said the trend in Asia today is peace and cooperation, not military buildup.
“Deliberate emphasis on military and security agendas, and strengthening military deployment and alliances are not in step with the times,” he said.
Obama announced the shift to a Pacific focus during a tour of Asian countries in November.
The announcement came against a backdrop of reduced defense spending as the United States was dealing with economic issues at home, preparing to pull out of Iraq and contemplating the end of warfare in Afghanistan.
“As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia Pacific a top priority,” Obama said in a November 17 speech in Australia. “As a result, reductions in U.S. defense spending will not — I repeat, will not — come at the expense of the Asia Pacific.”
Read more the rest of the story CNN.com