Fri, Mar 04, 2005 - Page 1 News List

China to increase military budget by 12.6 percent

AFP , BEIJING

China is expected to increase its military expenditures by 12.6 percent this year, sources said yesterday, as it boosts its capability of using force to conquer Taiwan.

The rise in spending comes with Washington voicing concern that China's military build-up could tilt the strategic balance with Taiwan and also threaten US forces in Asia.

In his report to the upcoming annual session of the National People's Congress, Finance Minister Jin Renqing (金人慶) is expected to propose raising military spending this year to 244.65 billion yuan (US$29.5 billion), sources said.

China's stated military budget has increased by double digits over most of the last 15 years with defense spending rising by more than 17 percent in 2001 and 2002.

It fell to a 9.6 percent clip in 2003 before rising again to 11.6 percent last year.

According to the CIA, China's publicized military budget is "less than half of China's actual defense spending."

Other military analysts say China's actual defense spending could be up to three times more than its stated figure as Beijing does not include new arms purchases and weapons' research and development in the figures.

The US defense budget is about US$400 billion this year, while Japan's is about US$47 billion.

Meanwhile, an American photojournalist was kicked and beaten by police in Beijing after he tried to document citizens handing in complaints to the nation's parliament, he said yesterday.

"I was in front of the complaints office just observing how they were manhandling and harassing petitioners," Michael Reynolds, a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), said of the Wednesday afternoon incident.

"As soon as I whipped out my camera, they [police] immediately encircled me and began grabbing me and my camera," he said.

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