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China raises military spending 17.8 percent

The Baltimore Sun

BEIJING -- China announced yesterday a 17.8 percent jump in military spending for 2007, its largest in a decade, less than two months after an anti-satellite missile test sent shock waves through foreign capitals.

The increase occurs after repeated criticism from the Bush administration that Beijing has not been adequately forthcoming in explaining its long-term military objectives.

Jiang Enzhu, a government spokesman, told reporters at the Great Hall of the People that China's latest $44.9 billion budget was in line with economic growth and did not threaten the rest of the world.

"China has neither the wherewithal nor the intention to enter into an arms race with any country, and China won't constitute a threat to any country," he said on the eve of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, which opens a 12-day session today. "China is committed to taking the path of peaceful development and pursuing a defensive military posture."

Jiang pointed out that China's military budget was a shadow of the United States'. The Bush administration has requested a $484.1 billion budget for the Defense Department in the fiscal year beginning in October, an 11.3 percent increase, although the figure does not include military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan or some nuclear weapons programs under the Department of Energy.

Using 2005 figures for comparison, Jiang said that China's defense spending as a share of the national budget that year stood at 7 percent. That compared with 20 percent for the United States, 11 percent for France and 9 percent for Germany.

Furthermore, he added, higher wages and living allowances and upgrading armaments for "defensive operations" would take up most of the spending. "This increase is compensatory in nature in order to make up for the weak national defense foundation of our country," Jiang said.

John D. Negroponte, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, in Beijing to confer with Chinese officials, called for more extensive explanation on China's spending, intentions and its programs' military doctrine.

"It's not so much the budget and the increases as it is with understanding those questions better through dialogue and transparency," he said yesterday.

Some foreign analysts say China's actual spending may be several times the official budget figure once secret programs, paramilitary forces and weapons development are factored in. The People's Liberation Army is the largest in the world, with more than 2 million people in uniform.

Mark Magnier writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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