03/04/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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China's military spending continues to rise

An increase of 14.9%, to 48 billion euros, has been announced for 2009. Beijing says that its military power has exclusively defensive purposes. But experts say that actual spending is much higher, and that China is developing space weapons and computer espionage.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China will increase its military spending by 14.9% in 2009, to 480.6 billion yuan (about 48 billion euros). Li Zhaoxing, a spokesman for the Chinese parliament, calls the increase "modest" and says that it is mainly intended for the modernization of facilities, higher salaries for the 2.3 million people who work in the sector, and for "capacity building programs" in counter-terrorism and disaster relief.

Li insists that Chinese military power is intended only to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, "and would not threaten any country."

Beijing also observes that its spending is about 8 times lower than that of the United States, in spite of the fact that its territory and population are much larger.

In the past, various countries, including the United States and Japan, have expressed their concern over the constant increase of military spending in China, accusing the country of expansionist intentions.

Experts accuse China of spending much more than it states, an accusation that Li has denied. Ralph Cossa, head of the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that actual spending is 3-4 times higher, and that the problem is that Beijing is not explaining better how the funds will be used.

In recent years, the Pentagon has said that China is developing ballistic missiles, anti-satellite weapons, and computer espionage.

A few days ago, Xinhua said that it will soon begin construction on a new space-launch center on the southern island province of Hainan.

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