China's expanding military footprint

BEIJING -- The United States is facing mounting tensions with China as the communist nation announces plans to expand its military footprint outside its borders.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane says Beijing has laid out the most detailed plans for its military in two years. Those plans include a greater role in the South China Sea, which the White House says is critical to American national security.

China is preparing for a "maritime military struggle," and is expanding the strength and scope of its navy, says Doane.

A document published by the State Council, the equivalent of a Chinese government cabinet, illustrates the strategy which refocuses the Chinese air force from defense to "both defense and offense."

The document laying out China's new defense posture comes as tensions rise in the South China Sea, where satellite images have revealed Beijing is reclaiming reefs to create islands in territory also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

The U.S. government says the tiny islands will host Chinese airstrips and military installations.

"What you have is a China that is growing in power," says senior CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate. "It's willing to flex its muscles and certainly doesn't want to be dictated to by the U.S. or other powers in the region. It is going to grow in power military, politically, and it's going to be force to be reckoned with."

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The U.S. military flew a surveillance plane over the disputed areas just last week -- with a TV crew on board -- and defied warnings by China to "get out" of the area.

The U.S. said it was flying in international airspace. China's government called the move "dangerous."

At a Ministry of Foreign Affairs news conference Wednesday in Beijing, Doane asked spokeswoman Hua Chunying if China was "redrawing its borders" and using it increased naval power to reinforce those new borders.

"What China is doing is lawful reasonable construction," she said about the land reclamation in the South China Sea. "It's certain countries, out of self interest, that are hyping this tension and smearing China's image."

Though she didn't specifically name the U.S., Doane said her remark was a clear swipe at Washington.

China sites the growing U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region as part of the reason for its beefed-up naval operations.