China says its defense budget will increase by about 7 percent this year, marking the second year in a row China has kept its military spending to a single digit percentage increase.
The exact number for defense spending in 2017 will be released Sunday when parliament begins its annual session.
China’s neighbors, however, have become increasingly suspicious of the country’s military tactics following China’s rapid expansion in the South China Sea, where it has created artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities.
Parliament spokeswoman Fu Ying sought to dismiss any misgivings China’s neighbors might have.
“Look at the past decade or so, there have been so many conflicts, even wars, around the world resulting in serious, large numbers of casualties and loss of property, so many refugees destitute and homeless,” she said. “Which one has China caused?”
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim all or parts of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, which is rich in fisheries as well as possible undersea fossil fuel reserves.
News of China’s military budget comes just days after U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S., the world’s strongest military power, would increase its military spending by 10 percent, even as the country begins to end wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.