China's military budget will increase by almost 15 percent this year to US$35 billion, a senior official said yesterday, amid warnings that "secessionist forces" in Taiwan were moving toward independence.
"According to the draft budget given to this year's congress by the State Council, the proposed national defense expenditures for 2006 total 283.8 billion yuan (US$35 billion) ... up 14.7 percent from last year's," said Jiang Enzhu (
"I want to stress that China is a peace-loving country ... China insists on a road of peaceful development and China has no desire nor the ability to considerably expand its military armaments," Jiang told a press conference.
The country's National People's Congress or parliament, which is constitutionally the state's highest body, opens today and is expected to approve the budget.
Military spending is expected to constitute 7.4 percent of the nation's fiscal budget, roughly the same level as in the past few years, Jiang said.
The defense budget was "still relatively low" compared with other countries like the US which spent US$401.7 billion last year, he said.
China last year spent US$30.2 billion on its military, he said.
Jiang said that most of the increase would go to raising the salaries of military personnel and overcoming the increase in rising global oil prices.
"We also need to appropriately increase funds for building armaments and raise the defense and combat capability of the army," Jiang said.
According to a report by the Pentagon in July, China's defense spending was two to three times greater than acknowledged by Beijing, or up to US$90 billion last year.
Such spending would make China's defense expenditures the largest in Asia and the third largest in the world after the US and Russia.
The Pentagon also said China's efforts to increase its ballistic missile strength and modernize its conventional forces were largely aimed at taking Taiwan.
Jiang warned that Taiwan's recent move to scrap an advisory council on unification and its accompanying guidelines was a "dangerous step" that threatens cross-strait peace.
"This is a dangerous step on the road toward `Taiwan independence,'" Jiang said.
"It is a grave provocation of the `one China' principle ... and the status of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," he said.
"It's our steadfast will and determination to oppose `Taiwan independence' secessionist forces and activities, maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait and safeguard China's state sovereignty and territorial integrity," Jiang said.
Since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, the rubber-stamp parliament has virtually never opposed any policy or initiative put forward by the communist-led government.
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