China boosts defence budget by 12.2 pc after warning military will respond if provoked

UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 10:42am

Agence France-Presse in Beijing


Delegates from the People’s Liberation Army arrive for parliamentary talks in Beijing. Photo: AP

China will raise its official defence budget by 12.2 per cent this year, the finance ministry announced Wednesday, a day after warning that its military would respond if ‘provoked’ by neighbours.

The Asian giant has for years boosted spending on its People’s Liberation Army, reflecting its military ambitions as it asserts its global standing and claims in a series of territorial disputes with Japan and other countries in the region.

“The appropriation for national defence is 808.23 billion yuan (HK$1.02 trillion), up 12.2 per cent,” it said in a budget report prepared for the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

Ahead of the meeting NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying had said that peace in the region would only be “maintained by strength”.

She said the nation’s growing military expenditure was only a defensive measure, and that its goal was to peacefully coexist with its neighbours.

But if provoked, she said, China was prepared to respond.

“If some countries want to challenge and ruin such a consensus and harm regional security and order China will make a response and an effective response at that,” she said.

Beijing set an increase in military spending of 10.7 per cent in 2013, following announced rises of 11.2 per cent in 2012 and 12.7 per cent in 2011.

The double-digit rises have raised concerns in the United States and Asia, particularly long-time rival Japan, with the two embroiled in an escalating row over East China Sea islands called Diaoyus in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.

Tokyo’s cabinet agreed in recent months to raise spending by 24.7 trillion yen (HK$1.9 trillion) from 2014 to 2019, representing a five per cent boost over five years – and eliciting criticism from Beijing.

National People’s Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying. Photo: Simon Song

Japan’s actions “must cause great concern to neighbouring countries in Asia and the international community”, defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in December.

Analysts believe China’s actual military spending is significantly higher than publicised, with the Pentagon estimating that in 2012 it reached between US$135 billion and US$215 billion.

Li Qinggong, deputy secretary general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said previously that Beijing would prioritise improving its hi-tech sea, air and nuclear arsenals, with the main focus likely to be on China’s navy, including adding aircraft carriers and strengthening fleets.

With additional reporting from Teddy Ng and Minnie Chan

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