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China must increase ability to win 'local wars': Wen
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 5, 2012

China defence budget a threat to region: Taiwan
Taipei, March 5, 2012 (AFP) - Taiwan said Monday the continued growth of China's military budget was a threat to the region after Beijing announced another double-digit increase in spending on its armed forces.

"The persistent rise in its military budget is a menace not only to Taiwan but to the peace and stability of the whole region," defence ministry spokesman David Lo told AFP.

He was speaking after China announced Sunday that its defence budget for 2012 will rise 11.2 percent from 2011 to 670.27 billion yuan ($106.41 billion).

Despite a slight slowdown from last year, when China's spending rose by 12.7 percent, the continued growth is of great concern to Taiwan which has pursued a dramatic detente with its giant neighbour.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have fallen markedly since 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang government came to power on a platform of beefing up trade links and allowing more Chinese tourists to visit.

But military pundits warn that Beijing has not since slowed down its ambitious military modernisation projects, foremost at least 1,600 ballistic missiles targeting the island.

In reaction, Taiwan has budgeted Tw$317.3 billion ($10.72 billion) in defence spending this year, a rise of 7.7 percent from 2011 and the first increase since 2008.

Local media say a big chunk of the budgeted rise will be used to finance the production of a home-made cruise missile, a supersonic ship-to-ship missile and an upgrade of a locally designed fighter jet.

Lo declined to provide details of Taiwan's 2012 budget, but reiterated that the island had no desire to launch an arms race with its giant neighbour.

"Taiwan needs a lean but powerful force to defend itself," Lo cited Ma as saying.

Beijing has refused to renounce the use of force against Taiwan should the island declare formal independence although Taiwan has governed itself for more than six decades since 1949 at the end of a civil war.

China must enhance the ability of its military to win "local wars", Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday, as Beijing grows increasingly assertive about its territorial claims in Asia.

Beijing lays claim to large swathes of the South China Sea which are also claimed by its smaller neighbours, and must also secure supply routes and new sources of raw materials to fuel its booming economy.

Wen's made his comments at the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, a day after the government announced military spending would top $100 billion in 2012 -- an 11.2 percent increase on last year.

"We will enhance the armed forces' capacity to accomplish a wide range of military tasks, the most important of which is to win local wars under information age conditions," Wen said in his "state of the nation" speech.

China's territorial disputes with countries including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam have grown rockier in recent years and its neighbours have accused it of behaving aggressively.

The Asian giant already has the world's largest armed forces and its defence budget has seen double-digit increases every year for much of the last decade, rattling the United States, which is forging ahead with plans to expand its own military power in Asia.

Analysts say actual defence spending is probably double the published figure, with funding for modernising the country's military not included in the budget.

China has made advances in satellite technology and cyber warfare in recent years and invested in advanced weaponry including its first aircraft carrier, a 300-metre-long (990-foot) former Soviet naval vessel that had its first sea trial in August.

But it remains technologically far behind the United States. Wen said Beijing aimed to "enhance our capacity for making innovations in defence-related science and technology and in weapons and equipment development".

"We will vigorously carry out military training under information-age conditions," he told the 3,000 delegates gathered in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

China began revamping its People's Liberation Army -- the former ragtag peasant force formed in 1927 by the Communist Party -- in earnest after a difficult 1979 incursion into Vietnam, when the neighbours vied for influence over Southeast Asia.

Besides conventional weaponry upgrades, the push also led to China's fast-growing space programme and the test of a satellite-destroying weapon in 2007.

China lays claim to essentially all of the South China Sea, where its professed ownership of the Spratly archipelago overlaps with claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Beijing and Tokyo also have a long-standing dispute over an uninhabited but strategically coveted island chain known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, which lies between Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea.

Wen also said China will "modernise the armed police force" -- responsible for domestic security -- amid growing social unrest in Tibetan-inhabited regions and in Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighurs.

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Japan 'concerned' over China military budget boost
Tokyo (AFP) March 5, 2012 - Japan on Monday voiced disquiet over China's double-digit boost to its military budget, as newspapers expressed scepticism over whether Beijing was telling the truth.

Tokyo's top government spokesman urged China's leaders to greater transparency on military issues and pledged Japan would be closely watching what happened across the water.

"We are concerned about the double-digit increase in this year's Chinese defence budget and will pay attention to future developments," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference in Tokyo.

"Some details of China's defence budget are still opaque," Fujimura said. "Our country will continue asking China to boost transparency through an exchange of dialogue in the field of security."

Fujimura was speaking as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged his military to boost its capacity to win "local wars" amid a ramping up of tensions with neighbours -- including Japan -- over a series of territorial disputes.

Wen made his comments at the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, a day after the government announced military spending would top $100 billion in 2012 -- an 11.2 percent increase on last year.

Japan's left-leaning Asahi Shimbun, quoting what it called "a high-ranking Chinese military officer", cast doubt on the veracity of previously announced budgets, claiming real spending was higher.

It cited the unnamed officer as saying China's defence budget last year was 1.7 times what it announced and this year's spending plan could also "fall considerably below actual defence spending".

In a front-page article, the daily said Beijing's exclusion of some of the costs of development and production of next-generation stealth fighters and antiship ballistic missiles meant the budget did not reflect real expenditure.

The paper said it was in Beijing's interests to be more honest.

"Chinese leaders must understand that blurring the reality of the expansion of China's power helps spread the idea that it is a threat to the world," the daily said in an editorial.

"China is becoming a superpower," it said. "It is not suitable that such a big country remains inward-looking."

Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun said in a story out of Beijing that US and European defence organisations share the view that China's "stealth" defence spending was up to three times the size of the announced military budget.

Japan has long expressed concern over China's growing assertiveness and widening naval reach in the Pacific and over what it calls the "opaqueness" of Beijing's military budget.

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing are often tested by history and by spats over disputed islands in the East China Sea that are believed to be rich in resources.


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