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China's nuclear facilities 'safe,' military says in defense review

By Jaime FlorCruz, CNN Beijing Bureau Chief
  • The People's Liberation Army inspected nuclear facilities after Japan's earthquake
  • Beijing is increasing military spending by more than 12% this year
  • It insists its military is for defense only
  • Regional neighbors are likely to be nervous about the expanding military

Beijing (CNN) -- China's military-controlled nuclear facilities are "in safe condition," a senior military official said Thursday as the country announced the results of a defense review.

"We have thoroughly inspected the military nuclear facilities immediately after the nuclear plant accident in Japan," said Cai Huailie, a senior colonel at General Headquarters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Responding to reporter's question, Cai said the PLA always puts priority on safety military nuclear facilities.

"We have established strict safety protocols and management as well as a professional team of nuclear technicians," he added.

Cai spoke at a press conference Thursday releasing China's White Paper on national defense, the seventh issued by the government since 1998.

The document outlines the country's security issues, national defense policy, defense expenditure and arms control.

China will boost its military spending by 12.7% to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.5 billion), this year. Chinese officials announced the planned increase in early March, when the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, approved the country's annual budget.

The defense budget in 2010 was increased by 532.1 billion yuan, or 7.5%.

China's military is about 2.3 million strong.

Analysts say China's actual spending on defense is far higher than the government reports.

Officials said Thursday the country did not have aggressive intentions.

"China adheres to the path of peaceful development and a defense policy that is defensive in nature, said Geng Yansheng, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense. "These principles will not change. China will never seek hegemony or pursue an expansionist policy."

The current missions of China's military, Geng said, include "safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development, maintaining social harmony and stability."

The newly issued White Paper said "the (spending) increase has been kept at a reasonable and appropriate level."

Expenditures, it said, are mainly allocated for "personnel, training, and equipment, with each accounting for one-third of the total."

At the annual session of China's parliament in early March, NPC spokesman Li Zhaoxing said the increase was justified.

"China's defense spending is relatively low by world standards," Li said, adding that its defense budget was much smaller than that of the United States. The U.S. has the largest military budget in the world by far.

Beijing insists that its military modernization program is entirely peaceful but its continued increase in military spending is likely to stir unease in the region.

China is reportedly developing stealth fighters and advanced missile systems and is building its first aircraft carrier.

Asked to confirm reports that China is now building its aircraft carrier, defense ministry spokesman Geng said: "This question has come up in previous occasions. I have nothing new to add."