China to Boost Military Spending

BEIJING (AP) - China announced plans Wednesday to boost military
spending by 14.9 percent this year, but noted that much of it was
for salaries and said there was no need for other countries to be
fearful.

National People's Congress spokesman Li Zhaoxing described the
increase as "modest" in a news conference to announce the agenda
for China's annual legislature, which opens Thursday.

Li said the said the increase would not pose a threat to any
country, and that much of it would go to salaries and benefits for
China's 2.3 million-strong military force, the world's largest.

The increase to 480.68 billion yuan ($70.27 billion), follows a
17.6 percent increase last year, and 17.8 percent in 2007 - the
biggest jump in more than a decade. It also marks the 19th
double-digit percentage increase in the past two decades.

Li said the latest figure equals 6.3 percent of the overall
budget for 2009, down slightly from last year.

China's defense spending is on par with Japan, Russia and
Britain, but is still dwarfed by U.S. military expenditures, which
are nearly 10 times as large.

"The increase in the 2009 defense budget will mainly be used to
improve living standards for military officials and troops," he
said. Spending will also be increased on improving the military's
technology.

"The limited military force is for safeguarding the state
sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not pose any threat
to any other country," Li said.

But China's rapid increase in military spending in recent years
has raised concerns from its neighbors and from the United States,
especially over the potentially dangerous Taiwan Strait.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said last month
that China's double-digit annual percentage military spending
increases "pose a greater threat to Taiwan."

Relations between rival China and Taiwan have warmed recently,
but Beijing still threatens to use military force to oppose any
move by Taiwan to declare formal independence.


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