China unveils $132-billion defense budget

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BEIJING: China will raise its official defense budget by 12.2 percent this year, the finance ministry said on Wednesday, another double-digit increase in the rising power’s military spending that alarms its neighbors.

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The Asian giant has for years boosted spending on its People’s Liberation Army, reflecting its military ambitions as it asserts its global standing and its claims in a series of territorial disputes with Japan and other countries in the region.

“The appropriation for national defense is 808.23 billion yuan [$132 billion], up 12.2 percent,” it said in a budget report prepared for the annual session of the rubberstamp National People’s Congress (NPC), which opens on Wednesday.

“Based on our history and experience, we believe that peace can only be maintained by strength,” NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying said ahead of the gathering.

Beijing set an increase in military spending of 10.7 percent in 2013, following announced rises of 11.2 percent in 2012 and 12.7 percent in 2011.

The increases have raised concerns in the United States and Asia, particularly longtime rival Japan, with the two embroiled in an escalating row over East China Sea islands called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.

Tokyo’s cabinet agreed in recent months to raise spending by 24.7 trillion yen ($240 billion) from 2014 to 2019, representing a five percent boost over five years—and eliciting criticism from Beijing.

Japan’s actions “must cause great concern to neighboring countries in Asia and the international community,” defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in December.

Analysts believe China’s actual military spending is significantly higher than publicized, with the Pentagon estimating that in 2012 it reached between $135 billion and $215 billion.

AFP

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