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China will not stop increasing military spending: Media

AFP , Thursday 6 Mar 2014
A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard near the Monument to the People's Heroes on Tiananmen Square before the opening session of the annual National People's Congress, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 5, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Chinese state media said Thursday the nation's defence budget would keep expanding but was not evidence of a mounting threat, after the government announced a 12.2 percent rise for 2014.

"China has no intention of overturning the current international security pattern," the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial. "China will never seek to grab hegemony."

Beijing is embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with Japan and other Asian states, and has pursued its claims more assertively in recent years.

China announced Wednesday, on the opening day of its Communist-controlled National People's Congress (NPC), that it plans to spend 808.23 billion yuan ($132 billion) on the People's Liberation Army for 2014, in the latest double-digit increase.

That figure is still far short of the $633 billion defence budget for 2014 approved by the United States, the global leader in military spending.

But analysts believe China's actual defence spending is significantly higher than publicised.

"China will not stop increasing its military spending," the Global Times said. "It is believed the best scale for it in the long run is keeping it at half or two-thirds of that of the US."

It added that China's military spending should exceed Japan's "to a large extent".

"We should have an absolute advantage over Japan in terms of naval and air forces and strategic striking capabilities, as Japan has shielding from its military alliance with the US," the paper said.

"China's annual military spending has exceeded Russia, but has China acquired greater military strength than Russia? Obviously no."

This year's official rise is the largest since 2011. In an editorial of its own the government-run China Daily newspaper said China was "only making up for what it has neglected to do in the past".

"The current increase is both imperative and legitimate, because China now has broader interests to defend," the paper wrote. "At the same time, more security threats are sprouting up in its immediate neighbourhood."

Beijing's growing military expenditures and capabilities have raised worries in Asia and the US, and Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Wednesday that its lack of transparency on spending "has become a matter of concern for the international community, including Japan".

China's official Xinhua news agency dismissed those concerns in a bylined commentary Thursday, arguing that "it is Washington and Tokyo, instead of Beijing, that should explain to the world their military postures and intentions".

Overseas concerns and worries were "unfounded and misplaced", it said, adding that accusing China of complicating the security situation "amounts to a gross perversion of truth".

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