SINGAPORE (AFP) - China on Saturday defended its military buildup and called for calm over North Korea as the global community looked to Beijing for a breakthrough in efforts to stop Pyongyangs nuclear ambitions. Lt-Gen Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the Peoples Liberation Army, told a top-level security forum here that China will consistently adhere to a military strategy of active defence. But he also said Beijing needed to boost its military capabilities to counter security threats and support its commitments to help ensure international peace and stability. Chinas neighbours and the US have been wary of its growing military might due to fears that Beijing might be harbouring territorial and other strategic ambitions. Ma also said China understood the concerns of Pyongyangs other immediate neighbours - Japan and South Korea - and that we are resolutely opposed to nuclear proliferation. Dressed in his military uniform and speaking to defence chiefs, military officers, security analysts and diplomats at the Singapore conference, Ma sought to assure Chinas neighbours of Beijings peaceful intentions. China steadfastly pursues a policy of building friendship and partnership with neighbouring countries... (and) adheres to a defence policy which is defensive in nature and a military strategy of active defence, he said. China is committed to developing military ties with other countries and has been a positive participant in various regional security forums, he said. Ma also cited the Chinese navys participation in an international effort to secure the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia from pirates. Chinese naval ships escorted 166 commercial vessels in 41 missions, provided area cover for 46 vessels and successfully rescued three foreign ships from pirate attacks, Ma told the conference, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. These fully demonstrate Chinas commitment to its international obligations as a responsible major country and the PLAs positive approach to maintaining international and regional peace and security, Ma said. Speaking at the same forum, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the United States and China need to cooperate on security matters and maintain transparent military ties. This includes maintaining a defence relationship marked by consistent and open channels of communication and contact, Gates said. It is also important for both countries to remain open about their strategic goals, political intentions and military development, the US defence chief said. Chinas support is widely seen as crucial in resolving the North Korean nuclear impasse because it is one of the few states with any influence over the isolated Stalinist regime in Pyongyang. Ma in his speech appealed for calm over North Koreas nuclear weapons test amid fears that Pyongyang was preparing to fire a long-range missile. He said China understood the concerns of Japan and South Korea and that we are resolutely opposed to nuclear proliferation. Our view is that the Korean peninsula should move towards denuclearisation and we hope that all parties concerned will remain cool-headed and take measured measures to address the problem. Tensions have heightened on the Korean peninsula since North Korean leader Kim Jong-Ils regime tested a nuclear bomb Monday, its second such test, and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.