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China state media defends military spending hike

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 6, 2011
China's state media on Sunday sought to alleviate fears about a double-digit hike in defence spending in 2011, amid concerns abroad about the nation's military intentions.

Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for China's national parliament, said on Friday that China's defence budget would rise 12.7% in 2011 to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.5 billion), compared to a rise of just 7.5% last year.

"The increase in China's defence budget should give no cause for criticism," the People's Daily newspaper, the Communist Party mouthpiece, said in its overseas edition.

The report cited turmoil in nations -- some near China -- and non-traditional security threats such as piracy off Somalia or the need to evacuate citizens from Libya as reasons for the increased budget.

It also highlighted the money needed to train its forces and to use them in disaster-relief operations as further motives.

China has upgraded the People's Liberation Army's capabilities over the past three decades, developing advanced weaponry like its first stealth fighter jet, revealed in January.

The campaign has alarmed the United States, Japan, and others in the region and raised fears a more assertive China would seek to project its power overseas.

The announced budget is widely believed to be far lower than actual spending.

The PLA -- the world's largest military force -- is hugely secretive about its defence programmes, but insists its modernisation is aimed purely at defence of China's vast land and sea borders.

Li said Friday the budget rise would "not pose a threat to any country", a statement repeated in the report, which nevertheless admitted that "the pace of modernisation of China's military strength would continue to accelerate."

Premier Wen Jiabao also vowed that China would continue to build a "powerful" military in a speech opening the nation's annual parliament session on Saturday.

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