China has claimed that a report released Friday by the Pentagon “severely damaged mutual trust” between the US and China, Agence France-Presse reported. The Defense Department’s annual report to Congress on China noted that throughout 2015, China “continued to assert sovereignty claims over features in the East and South China Seas.” The report also says China has “demonstrated a willingness to tolerate higher levels of tension in the pursuit of its interests,” though it continues to avoid direct conflict with the US. Right now, China “is using coercive tactics short of armed conflict” to advance its national interests, while working to develop capabilities it believes are necessary to deter or defeat the power projection of adversaries in the long run, according to the report. “China’s military modernization is producing capabilities that have the potential to reduce core US military technological advantages,” the report states. Chinese officials took issue with the substance of the report, according to AFP, and Chinese spokesman Yang Yujun said it was the US “that has been flexing military muscles by frequently sending military aircraft and warships to the region.” In April, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that several aircraft and about 200 airmen would stay in the Philippines after an annual training exercise to help patrol the South China Sea. The contingent of A-10 Warthogs and HH-60G Pave Hawks flew its final mission in late April, but officials plan to send a second contingent of advanced fighters. (See also: More Escalation in the South China Sea.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.