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China to raise 2017 defense budget by around 7 pct: spokesperson

China to raise 2017 defense budget by around 7 pct: spokesperson

The exact figure was to be provided by Premier Li Keqiang during his address at the beginning of the congress' opening session Sunday morning.

Depending on the final figure, this year's budget could mark the third consecutive year of declines in defense spending growth rates, even while some outside observers say those figures don't account for all military spending.

With Donald Trump proposing a 10% jump in USA military spending in 2017, and worries about potential disputes with America over the South China Sea and the status of Taiwan, some in China had been pressing for a forceful message from this year's defense budget.

USA officials have described the island-building project as an attempt by China to assert military dominance in the area.

"We advocate dialogue for peaceful resolutions, while at the same time, we need to possess the ability to defend our sovereignty and interests", she said. "As long as we take care of our own security issues, we don't need to compare with others", he said.

"It's not yet certain what is going to happen to these people, and the military is clearly hoping for more money to deal with them", one senior Beijing-based Asia diplomat said before this year's defence budget was announced. The announcement is seen to be a hardening of its position on disputed islands in the South China Sea and has stirred alarm in the region and in Washington.

An American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has been patrolling in the South China Sea for much of the past two weeks.

He said more than 100 countries and worldwide organizations have joined the initiative also known as One Belt, One Road proposed by China to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

"As to how to the situation develops in future, that depends on US intentions".

However, that is still only a quarter or so of the USA defense budget, which would amount to $603 billion if the 10 percent increase proposed by the White House is approved.

Chinese defence spending would stay at around 1.3 per cent of GDP, she added.

But Xu said budgets for advanced weapons had been counted in past years' spending, and China's development cost was less than that of Western nations. In 2016, the Pentagon spent 584 billion dollars. It has built military-grade airfields on three of the islands, where it has also constructed fortified structures believed to be intended for housing surface-to-air missile systems.

Wang Guoqing, for his part, said China's 13th Five-Year Plan launched in 2016 has made a good start to make the country's economic development inclusive.

Late past year, the Chinese Navy seized a US underwater drone in the sea that the Pentagon said was collecting data during a routine survey.

With troop numbers declining, the 7% increase suggested "funding is still being channeled towards investment in new equipment and the wider process of modernizing" the Chinese military, said Craig Caffrey, an expert on defense budgets at IHS Jane's. However, the rate still outpaced most other major economies.

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