U.S. warns China on military build-up


By Olivier Knox WASHINGTON, AFP

The United States expressed concern Monday about China’s announced increase in military spending as “inconsistent” with peaceful goals and hinted official figures do not reflect actual spending.

“This kind of spending not only concerns U.S. but raises concerns among China’s neighbors. This is inconsistent with China’s policy of peaceful development,” said White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

“We hope they will demonstrate more transparency in the future,” Johndroe told AFP by telephone.

He declined to elaborate, but U.S. officials in the past have used such language to mean that China’s declared military budget may not accurately reflect spending.

Johndroe spoke after Beijing announced a nearly 18 percent increase in defense expenditures in 2007.

And Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday that China would continue to build its armed forces.

“Building a solid national defense system and a powerful people’s army is a strategic task in socialist modernization,” Wen told the National People’s Congress.

A day earlier China announced for 2007 the biggest jump in its military budget in recent years: 17.8 percent over last year to about US$45 billion.

Analysts have said Beijing is beefing up its military in part so it can take Taiwan back by force, if necessary.

Taiwan has been separate from the mainland since a civil war ended in 1949, and Beijing considers the island a renegade province.

“Taiwan is our territory. Just look at history. Why can’t we take Taiwan back?” said Tan Naida, a delegate to the National People’s Congress from the National Defense University.

Independence-minded President Chen Shui-bian yesterday exacerbated fears in Beijing that the island could break away.

“Taiwan wants independence, Taiwan wants to change its name, Taiwan wants a new constitution,” Chen said Sunday.

Such rhetoric worries the United States, which has pledged to protect Taiwan from Chinese military aggression.