The document says the growth of China's military power must be accompanied by greater clarity in its strategic intentions to avoid causing friction in the region.
In response, China said it was committed to peaceful development and a "defensive" policy.
"China's strategic intent is clear, open and transparent," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters at a regular briefing.
"Our national defense modernization serves the objective requirements of national security and development and also plays an active role in maintaining regional peace and stability. It will not pose any threat to any country," Liu said. "The charges against China in this document are groundless and untrustworthy."
He added that maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region serve the common interests of all Asia-Pacific countries "and we hope the U.S. will play a more constructive role to this end."
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is not anticipating military conflict in Asia, but that it became so bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that it missed chances to improve its strategic position elsewhere.
Panetta said the Asia-Pacific region is growing in importance for the U.S. economy and national security, so the nation needed to maintain "our military's technological edge and freedom of action."
The new strategy also identified India as a long-term strategic partner that can serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the Indian Ocean region. It said the U.S. will try to maintain peace on the Korean peninsula by working with allies and others in Asia to defend against North Korean provocations.