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China takes step at openness, allows foreigners at defence briefing

Published on Jul 31, 2014 6:37 PM
An officer of a Chinese People's Liberation Army honour guard uses a string to ensure members of the honour guard are standing in a straight line, before a welcoming ceremony for Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Defence Ministry allowed foreign media for the first time on Thursday to attend its monthly news conference in another step towards increasing transparency, though the briefing yielded little concrete news.

The ministry started the briefings in 2011, first restricting attendance to Chinese reporters, unlike other government departments, like the Foreign Ministry, where access is generally extended to the foreign press.

Growing military spending - slated at 808.2 billion yuan (S$163.16 billion) this year - along with increasing assertiveness over territorial rows - has worried the region over China's intentions, especially over a perceived lack of openness by the armed forces. "We hope that attending the regular Defence Ministry press conference will help you in your reporting in China and hope that you can help the world understand more objectively and more truthfully China and China's military," ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said as the outset of the briefing.

The ministry has invited eight foreign reporters from different foreign news organisations to attend, including Reuters, for an initial six-month period. Officials will then assess the briefings and decide whether other foreign reporters may be allowed in.

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