China announced Tuesday its defence spending would rise 17.6 percent this year but insisted the increase was moderate, after the United States expressed concerns about Beijing's expanding military power.
The draft defence budget for 2008 is set at 417.769 billion yuan (57.229 billion dollars), up 62.379 billion yuan from 2007, a spokesman for China's nominal parliament told reporters.
The rise continues the government's policy of "moderate increases" in defence spending in recent years, said Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the first annual session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC).
"These increases were of a compensatory nature to make up for a weak defence foundation," Jiang said.
The higher budget for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is needed for pay rises, extra costs of rations and fuel, training, and new arms to "enhance the military's ability to conduct defence operations under IT conditions", he said.
Jiang said the recent rises in the annual budget were significantly lower than the increases in government revenue.
China's military budget remained below most other major military powers as a percentage of gross domestic product, he said.
The 3,000-member NPC is scheduled to discuss and approve the national budget during its 13-day annual session, which begins on Wednesday.
Many Western critics claim China's real military spending is much higher than its budget figure, with some US analysts estimating actual military spending at up to three times the budget figure.
The budget announcement came one day after the Pentagon released an annual report saying that China's military build-up could fuel instability in Asia and create confusion about Beijing's intentions.
"The lack of transparency in China's military and security affairs poses risks to stability by increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation," the report said.
China has been modernizing its nuclear force by fielding new DF-31 and DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles and is upgrading its capability to wage in war in the Taiwan Strait, it said.
"China's leaders have yet to explain in detail the purposes and objectives of the PLA's modernizing military capabilities," said the Pentagon report.
Last Mod: 04 Mart 2008, 12:05