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China's defence spending increases 'reasonable'

China's defence spending as a share of gross domestic product has been basically stable for many years, with the increases "moderate" and "reasonable", the spokesman of the country's parliament says.

"The modernisation of China's military will not pose a threat to any country," Wang Chao, spokesman for the National People's Congress, has told reporters.

Wang was asked at a news conference on Saturday how much China's defence budget would increase this year, and whether any increase would be larger than in previous years.

He declined to give any figures for this year's defence budget.

The spending figure will be officially unveiled in the national budget to be released on Sunday at the start of this year's annual meeting of parliament.

It will be closely watched by China's neighbours and in Washington as a barometer of how aggressively the country will beef up its military.

Beijing routinely says that spending for defensive purposes is a comparatively low percentage of its GDP and that critics want to demonise it as a threat to world peace.

China is nervous about challenges on several fronts, ranging from Chinese-claimed Taiwan to US naval and air missions in the disputed South China Sea near Chinese-occupied islands and a festering border dispute with India.

China staged war games near Taiwan in August to express anger at the visit to Taipei of then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.