Buenos Aires (AFP) Oct 6, 2009
Brazil's recent increase in defense spending is necessary to protect the country's resources and not a sign of expansionist policies, the country's defense minister said Tuesday.
"Brazil has not started an arms race and has no expansionist intentions," Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said in an interview with Clarin newspaper in Buenos Aires, where he was giving a speech on development and defense.
Jobim said the protection of Brazil's strategic natural resources required a strong defense policy, which has so far included a massive investment in development of an arms industry to improve the Brazilian military's technical capacity.
Jobim said Brazil is well-positioned for the future because of the richness of its natural resources, but be able to protect them.
"We have significant energy resources in terms of hydrocarbons and the sea, we have grain production, the Amazon and part of the Guarani aquifer. The big issues for the future will be energy, water and food," he said.
"The question is one of a deterrent capacity, not imperialism."
The defense minister added that Brazil aims to increase its technological capabilities in the fields of space, nuclear technology and cybertechnology so that "the country can say 'No' when we need to say 'No.'"
earlier related report
Defense Minister Walker San Miguel said in a statement Bolivia spends less than its neighbors on military hardware and is committed to the principles of peace and dissuasion.
"But we can't have armed forces that do not have access to the minimum equipment for their professional training and action if needed," San Miguel said, MercoPress reported.
His comments followed other South American leaders' recent pronouncements criticizing arms purchases by their neighbors and calls for restraint in military expenditure.
The Obama administration has said it is worried about huge arms purchases by nations that should be directing their cash resources to poverty reduction.
The minister's comment came after government confirmation that Bolivia would buy six K-8 aircraft from China to bolster its anti-narcotics operations and border controls.
The government of President Evo Morales has come under strong criticism for having approved the purchase worth $57.8 million -- funds that critics said should have been directed toward development in Bolivia.
A similar model of the K-8 was bought earlier by Venezuela.
Further criticism followed the open line of credit for arms purchases from Russia, though details of the arms purchases have not been revealed.
The financing arrangement for the aircraft is not clear, but China is pursuing a combined diplomatic and economic campaign in South America to increase its footprint in the region, secure energy and raw materials for its burgeoning industrial growth and win friends where it had few in the past. China has also promised to put a Bolivian satellite into space.
The aircraft was developed jointly by China and Pakistan as a two-seat trainer but later was fitted with advanced avionics and gun emplacements to function as a combat aircraft.
China has successfully sold the aircraft to Egypt, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, Southeast Asian countries and the Philippines, where it is likely to replace the British Aerospace BAE Hawk Mk.53 jet trainer.
San Miguel indicated Bolivia chose the Chinese option because it failed to receive positive response from European suppliers and the United States. "The U.S. is not helping and Europe has its own regulations, so we went to China," he said.
A matching purchase from the Czech Republic did not go through because of U.S. objections.
Last week Morales said Bolivia also could not receive five helicopters as a "donation" from Brazil because those aircraft, too, had U.S. components and could not be transferred to Bolivia before approval from Washington.
Morales has been at loggerheads with U.S. government agencies and suspended cooperation with Washington, accusing Drug Enforcement Administration agents of spying.
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