SINGAPORE - China's defense minister sought to reassure Asia Pacific neighbors on Sunday that his country's growing economic and military power was not a threat, as long-running maritime disputes in the region flare up again.General Liang Guanglie told the annual Shangri-La security conference in Singapore that the modernization of the People's Liberation Army was in line with the country's economic growth and to meet its security requirements."We do not intend to threaten any country with the modernization of our military force. I know many people tend to believe that with the wealth of China's economy, China will be a military threat," he said, speaking dressed in full military uniform."I would like to say that it is not our option. We didn't seek to, we are not seeking to and we will not seek hegemony and we will not threaten any country."China will beef up its military budget by 12.7 percent this year, the government announced in March, a return to double-digit spending increases that stirred unease in the region as well as in the United States which has long had a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region.China's growing military influence has coincided with a more assertive diplomatic tone, evident in rows with Japan and Southeast Asia over disputed islands, and in rows with Washington over trade, the yuan currency and this week over cyber-security after Google said email accounts had been hacked in an attack that appeared to originate from China.But Liang said the situation in the South China Sea where a territorial dispute with Vietnam and the Philippines heated up last month was now stable."China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China sea," he said adding it stood by a 2002 code of conduct signed with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations to resolve peacefully the rival claims over the resource-rich region.