China announces 8.1% defence budget increase

BEIJING China yesterday announced an 8.1 per cent defence budget increase this year, giving a boost to the modernisation of the world's largest military after spending slowed in the previous two years.

Beijing will splash out 1.11 trillion yuan (S$230 billion) on its military, according to a budget report presented before the opening session of the annual National People's Congress.

"We will stick to the Chinese path in strengthening our armed forces, advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests," Premier Li Keqiang said in a report to the legislature.

China's neighbours and the US have watched warily as Beijing has modernised its military, reducing its ground troops while spending on state-of-the-art hardware and weapons.

Mr Li said the military had completed its goal of slashing troop numbers by 300,000, leaving the People's Liberation Army with a two-million-strong force.

Beijing has also imposed increasingly assertive claims to vast expanses of the contested South China Sea, while engaging in confrontations with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea and with India over Himalayan border regions.

This year's outlay compares with a 7 per cent increase last year and 7.6 per cent in 2016.