`Chinese military not a threat`

China`s announced defence budget grew 12.7 percent this year to USD 91.5 billion.

Beijing: China`s military is not a threat to others despite the development of new weapons such as a stealth fighter and aircraft carriers, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Monday.

The Xinhua editorial echoes statements from top Chinese generals seeking to soothe global concern about the rapid rise of the People`s Liberation Army.

China`s announced defence budget grew 12.7 percent this year to USD 91.5 billion, the largest in the world after the United States. The recent unveiling of a prototype stealth fighter and acknowledgment of a program to build aircraft carriers have caught even close observers of the Chinese military by surprise.

However, Xinhua said perceptions of a threat were the result of exaggerations by Western media and China had no interest in seeking conflict.

"For China, widespread myth about its military power underscores a need to communicate more often and more effectively with other countries on the issue," Xinhua said.

Defence Minister Liang Guanglie told a regional forum in Singapore earlier this month that the strength of China`s armed forces is 20 years behind the US and although the military is developing new capabilities, it is not a threat to peace in Asia.

That was followed by an unusual revelation by the chief of the general staff, Chen Bingde, that China was readying its first aircraft carrier, a refurbished model bought from Ukraine in 1998 that is set to begin sea trials soon.

While China`s rising defence spending and new capabilities have raised concerns in the region, Beijing`s more aggressive assertions of its territorial claims in the South China Sea and occasional friction along its border with India have also sparked fears of a conflict. China and Vietnam have in recent days exchanged verbal barbs over South China Sea island groups claimed by both.

Bureau Report

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