Japan expressed concern on Wednesday over the strengthening of the Chinese military announced by Premier Li Keqiang during the National People’s Congress (NPC) annual meeting.
Li promised to “reinforce military strategic guidance; to modernise the military system; reinforce the national defence capacity as well as our capacity reserves; reinforce the daily response capacity, as well as the border, navy and air defence capacity.”
China announced a 12.2 percent increase in military spending to 132 billion US Dollars.
That followed last year’s 10.7 percent increase to 114 billion US Dollars, giving China the second-highest defence budget for any nation behind the U.S., which spent 600.4 billion US Dollars on its military last year.
Increases in China’s military budget have regularly exceeded both total increases in government spending and the nation’s rate of economic growth.
That has allowed lavish spending on new hardware and better conditions for soldiers, raising concerns about how China intends to use its new-found power amid a rise in tensions with its neighbours over the country’s territorial claims.
In particular, there’s been a sharp increase in friction between China and Japan in the past 18 months over control of a string of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
During a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed concern over the expansion of China’s military budget and said it lacks transparency.
While becoming increasingly assertive in its own territorial claims, Beijing has at the same time accused Japan of renewed militarism while dwelling on Tokyo’s history as an aggressor during World War II.
Cheng Enfu, a National People’s Congress delegate for Anhui province, said his country was right to increase its military spending because “Japan, the United States and others are…demonising China.”
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