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

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

China's parliament on Saturday announced the country will increase its military spending by 7 percent in 2017.

Ms Fu Ying, spokesman for the National People's Congress (NPC), China's Parliament, said that the situation in the South China Sea is "calming down" as China and Asean countries have returned to consultations and negotiations over their disputes.

China maintains that the United States has no place in the dispute and regularly accuses the U.S. government of "meddling" in Asian affairs. "The strengthening of China's [military] capabilities help preserve peace and stability in the region, not the opposite". China, being the second biggest defense spender in the world, pales in comparison to the United States.

China has territorial disputes with four Asean states - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei - and tensions have risen in recent years over China's growing assertiveness in its claims, including building artificial islands on reefs it occupies and placing military facilities on them.

"We need the ability to safeguard our sovereignty and interests and rights", Fu said.

China points out that, as a developing country with a population of 1.37 billion, its defense spending per capita is a fraction of those of other nations.

"Although the two sessions will be mostly focused on domestic issues rather than foreign policies, this year is special because China is now embroiled in a restive environment and Trump is seen a major factor in this instability", Deng said.

"Of all the conflicts and wars in the world that have killed and displaced so many people and caused significant loss of property, which one is China to blame for?" she asked.

Still, the increase of about 67 billion yuan ($9.7 billion) would push the total defense budget past the 1 trillion yuan ($145 billion) mark for the first time.

"The US defence budget has increased by 10 per cent and we need at least a double-digit increase". She noted North Atlantic Treaty Organization members were being urged to spend 2% of GDP on defense-a higher level than China.

China is also dealing with increased tensions in the Korean Peninsula, where the United States and South Korea are preparing to deploy a missile-defence system that China has long criticized.

"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. "We must not give Trump an excuse to accuse China of currency manipulation", Yu said.

Many military analysts believe China's defence figures do not fully reflect its actual spending because many forms of investments are shown as civil works.

Trump then publicly questioned United States support for the one-China policy, alongside constant criticism of China's currency tactics, threats to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, and bluster over China's military build-up in the South China Sea - all of which are believed to have reinforced the concerns of the nation's top leaders who prize stability and predictability as top priorities.

Fu said whether a military poses a threat rests on its "strategic intentions".

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