China says it is increasing defense spending, this year, to raise the salaries of the world's largest standing army. The announcement Wednesday came at a news conference to preview the annual legislative session, which begins Thursday.
Li Zhaoxing is the spokesman for China's parliament, the National People's Congress, not the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
But, in what has become a tradition in recent years, the NPC spokesman announced China's proposed military budget. Li says the defense budget is included in the draft national budget that is submitted to the legislature for examination and approval, and China's military spending in 2009 will increase nearly 15 percent to $70 billion.
The spokesman describes the increase as "modest" and said the double-digit growth will not pose a threat to any other country. He says much of the extra money will go to salaries for China's more than two-million troops and be spent on raising capabilities in what he described as "non-warfare military operations." He also says the additional spending is needed to maintain China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China has maintained its threat to use military force against Taiwan, if Taipei declares formal independence. Beijing considers the separately-governed island a renegade province.
The spokesman says China's military expenditures are no secret. He says, since 2007, China has submitted annual military expense reports to the United Nations. Li says there is no such thing as "hidden military expenditure" in China.
The United States, Japan and other countries have long expressed concern about China's military build-up.
In just concluded Sino-American military talks last week, U.S. Defense Department official David Sedney told reporters Washington sees nothing wrong with China modernizing its military. At the same time, he said the U.S. government just wants more clarity about the Chinese government's intentions.