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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

China to Declare Defense Spending, Arms Sales to UN

03 September 2007

The Chinese government says it will declare its annual defense spending and arms sales to the United Nations to ease concerns about transparency in its military build-up. However, as Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, analysts doubt China will declare all defense expenditures.

China's Foreign Ministry says it will begin declaring its "basic" annual defense spending and resume reporting annual arms sales to the United Nations this year.

The Foreign Ministry website on Sunday said the declarations are part of efforts to show China is "further enhancing its military transparency." The statement, however, did not say what information would be declared.

Robert Karniol is a military analyst and long-time observer of China's defense build-up. He says China's known defense spending is in line with its economic development, but its hidden budget is cause for concern.

"In military circles there are two signals that one watches for. And, those are development of capabilities and intent," explained Karniol. "China has been moving forward with the development of capabilities but its intentions remain unclear."

Karniol says that despite the latest announcement, China is not likely to suddenly end its practice of keeping almost all defense matters secret.

China says defense spending went up by almost 18 percent this year to $45 billion, the largest annual increase in more than a decade. But some analysts say real military spending could be several times that amount if China's spending on new weapons systems is included.

Beijing set off alarm bells in January when it blew up an old satellite with a rocket-launched weapon. And it has steadily increased the number of missiles aimed at political rival Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China says must one day reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

The U.S. has indicated it would defend Taiwan if China attacks.

China has increased military exchanges with the U.S. and other nations to try to show its military objective is simply to defend its territory.

The Foreign Ministry statement says China also will resume providing data on arms sales to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. China has not reported sales for 10 years in protest over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Beijing says it sells arms responsibly. But, Chinese arms have been blamed for fueling conflict in Sudan and have reportedly been used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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