Beijing: China announced plans Wednesday to boost military spending by 14.9% 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% increase last year, and 17.8% 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% of the overall budget for 2009, down slightly from last year.
China’s defence 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.
US 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.