China's defense budget for 2006 is expected to hit 283.8 billion yuan (US$35.1 billion), 14.7 percent higher than last year, Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), said at a press conference held in Beijing Saturday.
This year's defense budget accounts for 7.4 percent of the budgeted fiscal expenditure, compared with 7.74 percent in 2003, 7.72 percent in 2004 and 7.34 percent in 2005, said Jiang.
The State Council is to submit the budget for approval at the annual session of the national legislature, which is scheduled to open in Beijing on Sunday.
China's military expenditure increased moderately in recent years along with the rapid economic development.
Jiang said the defense budget is increased this year to raise the salaries of servicemen and to cover the costs of oil products for military use which grow with the rise of international oil prices.
The extra money would also be spent to train talented professionals for the military and improve military equipment for better defensive and combating capacity, the spokesman said.
"As a peace-loving country, China always carries out an independent foreign policy of peace and follows the road of peace and development," Jiang stressed.
"China is not willing to nor has the capacity to seek large-scale arms expansion," he said.
China's military spending still remains at a low level compared with some other countries, such as the United States, Britain, Japan and France, he added.
(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2006)