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China’s defense spending rises are ‘no threat’

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Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) march during the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing. Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s “moderate” defense spending rises in the past few years have been to make up for past deficiencies and the country’s military will not threaten anyone, a senior diplomat said yesterday ahead of the release of the defense budget.

How much China spends on its armed forces is closely watched around the region and in Washington for pointers about the country’s broader strategic intentions amid an impressive modernisation programme that has included developing stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.

Last year military spending was budgeted to increase by just 7 percent, to 1.044 trillion yuan ($164.60 billion) about one-quarter of the proposed US defense spending for the year.

Speaking ahead of today’s release of China’s national budget by parliament, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, who is also parliament’s spokesman, declined to provide information on how much defense spending would rise, as has been the custom in recent years the day before the legislature opens.

Zhang said all countries adjusted their military spending depending on defensive needs and the state of the economy.

“In recent years, China has moderately raised defense investment,” he told a news conference. “Part of it has been to make up for past investment deficiencies, mostly on renewing equipment [and] improving material benefits for soldiers.”

However, proportionally, China’s defense spending is less than other major countries, he said.

“China has always upheld the path of peaceful development, and practices a defensive defense policy. China’s development will not constitute a threat to any country.

US President Donald Trump has proposed a military budget that is the largest since 2011 and focused on beefing up the country’s nuclear defenses and countering the growing strength of China and Russia.

With worries about potential disputes with the US over the South China Sea and the status of self-ruled Taiwan, China’s military had mounted what defense sources and diplomats viewed as a lobbying campaign for more spending.

The actual number for defense spending should be released today as the largely rubber-stamp Chinese parliament begins its annual session.

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