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Chinese defence budget to rise by 17.6%

Latest update : 2008-03-04

China said its military spending would rise 17.6% in 2008 but insisted the increase was moderate after Washington expressed concerns about Beijing's expanding military power. (Report: P.Barber)

BEIJING — China unveiled another double-digit rise in military spending on Tuesday for a modernisation plan heavily scrutinised overseas and also warned self-ruled Taiwan that Beijing would "tolerate no division". 

The planned allocation for the People's Liberation Army for 2008 was 417.769 billion yuan (58.76 billion US dollars), up 17.6% on 2007, Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for China's National People's Congress, or parliament, told a news conference on Tuesday. 

Jiang said the money would be used to raise the pay of service personnel and improve training for officers, as well as to upgrade military equipment. 

"Appropriately increasing spending on equipment upgrading will improve our defensive ability," Jiang said. 

The rise follows a 17.8% increase in defence spending for 2007, its largest rise in a decade, when the official outlay reached 350.92 billion yuan, or 45 billion dollars. 

International experts estimate China's true spending on the PLA could be as much as triple that. 

Jiang said that China's spending on defence was still much lower than other countries, as a percentage of their overall economies. 

China says it adheres to a path of peaceful development and that it needs to modernise its massive forces with new ships, missiles and fighter planes for the purposes of self-defence only. 

"China's limited armed forces are totally for the purpose of safeguarding independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will not pose a threat to any country," Jiang said. 

Xu Guangyu, a former People's Liberation Army officer who now works in the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the budget increase was needed. 

"This rise is absolutely ordinary and entirely necessary. We're starting from a very low base — only about a 12th of the United States' defence budget  — so we need bigger increases to reach world standards," he told Reuters. 

"I'd guess that we will see similar rates of growth for the next five years at least. Weapons are becoming much more costly, too. So nobody should make a fuss about this increase," Xu added. 

But US officials have said China's growing might is aimed at Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its territory and whose March 22 presidential election it will watch closely. 

China and Taiwan have faced off since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Beijing has vowed to bring the island back under its control and has held out the possibility of using force against it should it move towards formal independence. 

"China's sovereignty and territorial integrity tolerate no division," Jiang said. "We are fully prepared to repulse any adventurous activities towards Taiwan independence."

Date created : 2008-03-04

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