BEIJING (AFP) - China's defence budget is set to rise 10.7 per cent this year, state media said on Tuesday as the national parliament's annual gathering opens, a slight drop from a 11.2 per cent increase in 2012.
"China plans to raise its defence budget by 10.7 per cent to 720.2 billion yuan" (S$144 billion) in 2013, the Xinhua news agency said, citing a budget report that will be reviewed by the National People's Congress (NPC), the national legislature.
China's military budgets have risen steadily in recent years along with the country's booming economic growth, and experts say the actual totals are usually substantially higher than the publicly announced figures.
The increases have become a sensitive topic as they come with China taking what some neighbouring countries consider a more assertive military stance on long-simmering territorial disputes.
In a departure from normal practice, the legislature had declined to announce the 2013 defence budget at a press conference on Monday, when NPC spokesman Fu Ying responded with frustration when she was asked about the topic.
"It seems China has to explain every year to the outside world why we should strengthen national defence and why we should increase the military budget," Ms Fu said.