March 4, 2013 - 10:24 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - China defended its booming military spending on Monday, March 4 saying vast investments in the armed forces have contributed to global peace and stability, despite concerns among the U.S. and Beijing's Asian neighbors over sharpening territorial disputes, AP reported.
However, in a break with previous years, no figure for this year's defense budget was presented at a news conference held Monday on the eve of the annual legislative session. Spokeswoman Fu Ying said the figure would appear in the overall budget to be released Tuesday.
Approving the budget is among the key tasks of the session, which this year will see new leaders placed into top government positions after they were elevated at November's Communist Party congress.
Party leader Xi Jinping will take over from Hu Jintao as president, as well as head of the government's Central Military Commission, as part of China's once-a-decade power transition. In addition, the session approves top Cabinet appointments such as the defense minister.
Chinese defense spending has grown substantially each year for more than two decades, and last year rose 11.2 percent to 670.2 billion yuan ($106.4 billion), an increase of about 67 billion yuan. Only the United States spends more on defense.
China's feuds with Vietnam and the Philippines over territory in the South China Sea have also flared periodically in recent months, while Beijing has been unnerved by the U.S. military's renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific, including plans to station marines in northern Australia on training missions.