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Japan Calls on China to Detail Military Spending

  • Naomi Martig

The Japanese Defense Ministry is calling on China to address the concerns of the international community, following China's announcement it is increasing its military spending by nearly 18 percent. As Naomi Martig reports from Hong Kong, Japan is among several Asia-Pacific nations expected to voice concern about Beijing's jump in defense spending.

In a statement released just hours after China announced plans to increase its military budget by 17.6 percent, Japan's Defense Ministry repeated its calls that China be more transparent about the strength of its military.

This year, China is predicting it will spend more than $57 billion on its military. Experts say Beijing's military strength is especially disconcerting because most nations are not aware of its actual capabilities.

Ian Storey, a defense expert at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, says some of China's neighbors, like Japan, are likely to react to China's defense budget hike with more anxiety than others.

"Although relations recently have gotten a bit better between China and Japan, they still regard each other with a bit of weariness. And, that's certainly true of military men," he said. "Japan will be looking at China's increased capabilities and that poses a bit of a worry for Japan's position in East Asia."

Storey says Taiwan is obviously expected to be concerned about the announcement.

"China's defense modernization since the early to mid 1990s has essentially been driven by Taiwan-related scenarios," he said.

Following Tuesday's defense announcement, officials in China warned Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian not to follow through with pro-independence plans, including efforts to seek United Nations membership under the name "Taiwan."

Taiwan and China split in 1949, at the end of a civil war. However, China still regards the island as part of its territory and has reserved the right to use force to reunify it with the mainland.

Storey says he does not anticipate a strong reaction from countries in Southeast Asia. He says China has invested a lot of political and economic capital in recent years in trying to assuage Southeast Asian nations concerned that Beijing presents a strategic threat to them.

However, he says India is concerned about the growth of Chinese naval power and what that means for the Indian navy in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and other areas.

Storey says one of the reasons China is reluctant to disclose information about its military capabilities is because they still have significant limitations.

"If they were totally transparent in their military modernization program, this would simply reveal weakness in their armed forces - weaknesses that could be exploited by potential rivals in the future," said Storey.

In a report Monday, the Pentagon said China's reluctance to share information about its military intentions, spending and capabilities poses a risk to stability. Many countries, including the United States, say China vastly underestimates how much it spends on its military and the real figure could be three times as much as its publicly released figure.

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