Japan’s defense chief not satisfied with China’s explanation on military spending


TOKYO (AP)

China failed to adequately explain its rising military spending during ministerial talks this week and Tokyo will continue to press Beijing for more transparency in its army budget, the Japanese defense minister said Friday.

Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan is in Japan on a five-day visit, the first by Chinese defense chief to Japan in nearly a decade. The trip is aimed at reversing a freeze in defense contacts between the two Asian neighbors and improving overall ties, amid persistent concerns in Japan about China’s military buildup.

Tokyo has expressed alarm at the pace of Chinese defense spending, and the lack of transparency in Beijing’s military budget.

“I strongly urged him that China should increase transparency but his explanations were abstract and not necessarily specific,” Komura told reporters Friday. “I will repeatedly bring up the subject.”

Meanwhile, Cao visited the Yokosuka Naval Base and was scheduled to visit an army training school later.

During Thursday’s talks, Komura urged China to disclose more details about its soaring military budget, which increased by 17.8 percent to US$44.9 billion for 2007.

Cao said that Beijing was increasing transparency, and that the growth in spending has largely gone to salaries, uniforms and modernization of equipment in line with international trends.

Komura and Cao agreed to launch a working group to discuss possibly setting up a telephone hot line between their armies and reciprocal port calls.

“I think we did well in the area of exchanges, but we could do better about transparency,” Komura said of the meeting Friday.

Cao said during a speech to Japanese defense officials and lawmakers Thursday that China’s military growth was not aimed at any country or people.

Tokyo’s ties with Beijing have been improving since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a fence-mending trip to China immediately after taking office last September, reversing a steep decline in relations under his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.

Cao is the first Chinese defense minister to visit Japan since Chi Haotian came to Tokyo in February 1998.