China called Thursday for “peace and stability” in the strategically vital Asia-Pacific, after the first batch of US Marines to be deployed in Australia began work. The 200 American troops are part of an enhanced defence cooperation outlined during a visit by US President Barack Obama in November and their deployment is seen as a bid to counterbalance China’s growing might in the Asia-Pacific. The announcement raised hackles in China, with the defence ministry criticising it as proof of a “Cold War mentality” and state media accusing Obama of using his diplomatic ambitions in Asia to detract from US economic woes. But at a media briefing on Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei held back from criticising the deployment. “Regional policies and interactions between different countries in this region should be conducive to the peace, stability and development of the Asia-Pacific,” he said. The American troops will be stationed in Australia on a six-month rotational basis, building to some 2,500 by 2016-17. The US views with increasing concern China’s growing assertiveness in Asia-Pacific on territorial disputes. The deployment has reassured some Asian countries, who see it as a statement that the United States intends to stand up for its allies and interests in the region.