The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said the continued growth of China’s military budget — which went up 11.2 percent this year from last year — was a threat to the region.
“The persistent rise in its military budget is a menace not only to Taiwan, but to the peace and stability of the whole region,” Ministry of National Defense spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) said.
Beijing announced on Sunday that its defense budget for this year would rise 11.2 percent from last year to 670.27 billion yuan (US$106.41 billion).
China’s official defense budget accounts for 1.28 percent of its GDP, compared with more than 2 percent for the US.
In a press conference on Sunday, National People’s Congress spokesman Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) said the defense budget also included money for experimentation, procurement and new types of weapons.
Despite a slight slowdown from last year, when China’s military spending rose 12.7 percent, the continued growth is of great concern to Taiwan, which has pursued detente with its neighbor.
Despite a relative reduction in tensions in the Taiwan Strait since the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008, military pundits say that Beijing has not slowed down its ambitious military modernization projects and has failed to remove the 1,600 or so ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan.
Taiwan has budgeted NT$317.3 billion (US$10.72 billion) in defense spending this year, a rise of 7.7 percent from last year and the first increase since Ma came to power.
A large portion of Taiwan’s military budget this year will finance the production of the -Hsiung Feng-IIE cruise missile, the Hsiung Feng III supersonic ship-to-ship missile and upgrades for the “Ching Kuo” indigenous defense fighter.
While Lo declined to provide details on Taiwan’s defense budget, he reiterated that Taipei had no desire to launch an arms race with China.
“Taiwan needs a lean, but powerful force to defend itself,” Lo cited Ma as saying.
Also in likely reaction to continued growth of the Chinese military and its assertiveness in the region, Japanese and Philippine diplomatic sources announced over the weekend that Japan’s Self--Defense Forces would for the first time join annual military exercises involving US and Philippine forces in the Philippines from the end of this month until next month.
Kyodo news reported yesterday that Australian and South Korean forces were also expected to take part, also for the first time, in the exercise, codenamed “Balikatan,” or “shoulder to shoulder” in Filipino.
This year’s maneuvers will involve a major disaster training exercise.
A defense official said there was a desire on Tokyo’s part to display a Japanese presence in Southeast Asia, with the Japan-US alliance serving as a linchpin, Kyodo reported.
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