China says US looking for excuses to raise defence budget

BEIJING - China said on Wednesday the United States was just looking for excuses to pump taxpayers' money into its military, after US Defence Secretary Ash Carter named China as a reason for seeking a $582.7 billion defence budget next year.

Carter said the funding request was in line with last year's congressional budget deal, with a clear focus on five big challenges facing the US military: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Islamic State.

He said the budget plan focused on higher-end weapons spending to maintain the US military's competitive edge over countries like Russia and China, which are expanding their militaries.

Asked about his comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China "loves peace" and its development will never threaten or challenge any other country.

China also has a defensive defence policy and is in the process of cutting 300,000 people from its armed forces, Lu told a daily news briefing, referring to an announcement made by President Xi Jinping last year.

But China's increasingly assertive moves to press territorial claims in the South China Sea, as well as an ambitious modernisation programme, have rattled nerves around the region, as well as in Washington.

"The United States has for many years maintained an enormous defence budget. Its spending exceeds that of the next eight countries combined," Lu said.

"Now it's still looking for all kinds of excuses to keep putting US taxpayers' money into expanding military strength. The motives of the US official are understood to all," Lu added, without elaborating.

Carter's remarks came a week ahead of the formal rollout of the administration's budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, providing a preview of what remains by far the largest military budget in the world.

Carter also voiced concern about China's military intentions. Beijing has been rapidly developing missiles and other weapons that could force the US military to operate farther from shore in the case of a conflict.

China's military budget will be unveiled next month at the start of the annual meeting of its largely rubber stamp parliament.

Last year China said it would boost its military spending by 10.1 per cent to 886.9 billion yuan ($134.82 billion), building on a nearly unbroken two-decade run of annual double-digit rises in the defence budget.