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China Defends Military Increase, Pledges Peaceful Development

  • Sam Beattie

China has issued a white paper on defense policy, saying its struggles to oppose separatist forces in Taiwan and North Korea's nuclear policy remain challenges. Sam Beattie reports for VOA from Beijing.

China released its version of a defense white paper Friday, announcing boosts in technology and equipment to help fight an independence movement in Taiwan.

The report highlights separatist forces within Taiwan as a problem for Beijing.

China has long promised it will invade Taiwan, if it declares independence. China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949. China continues to claim sovereignty over the self-governing island.

The defense report outlines upgrades in battle equipment for its army, new fighters and missile technology for its airforce and modernization of its navy.

Evan Medeiros, a China analyst with the RAND Corporation in Washington, says the Chinese military is looking to become more flexible and responsive.

"The Chinese PLA, or People's Liberation Army, has traditionally always been the principal focus of the Chinese military. And the army has been focusing in recent years on building a smaller, more flexible, highly-trained and well-equipped ground force, one that can have more rapid reaction units with enhanced special operations capabilities, greater number of airborne troops, larger amphibious capabilities and mechanized ground forces," said Medeiros.

The report released by China's State Council says the increase in defense spending is in line with China's national economic development.

China says it spent $35 billion in 2006 on its military, but experts believe the amount is likely to be several times higher.

The report covers regional security, and highlights what it calls "growing complexities" within the Asia Pacific region.

It says that United States weapons deals with Taiwan, and military ties with Japan are two of several key issues needing attention.

China has the world's largest army, with 2.3 million soldiers, but experts say it lacks advanced technology.

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