Source AP ©

China to speed up modernization of military, Hu Jintao says

China's military, the world's largest, will speed up its modernization over the next five years, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday.

In his keynote speech at the opening of a twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress, Hu said he was committed to making China's military more modern.

"We must build strong armed forces through science and technology," he said.

"In keeping with the new trends in world military affairs and the new requirements of China's development, we must promote innovation in military theory, technology, organization and development," Hu said.

China says spending for its People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing army with 2.3 million members, grew 17.8 percent this year to about 351 billion yuan (US$44.94 billion; EUR34.14 billion). It was the largest annual increase in more than a decade.

That puts China roughly in the same neighborhood as Japan, Russia and Britain in defense spending, although it spends less than one-tenth of what the U.S. military costs. The Pentagon says China's real defense spending may be much more, because the official budget doesn't include major weapons purchases and other items.

Beijing's increased military spending has raised concerns, and countries such as the U.S. and Japan have questioned the pace and amount of China's defense spending.

"We are determined to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and make contributions to maintaining world peace," Hu said.

"We will adjust and reform the systems of defense-related science, technology and industry and of weapons and equipment procurement, and enhance our capacity for independent innovation in research and development of weapons and equipment."

He did not give details on how that would be done.

Hu stressed "the fundamental principle" that the Communist Party would continue to have absolute leadership over the armed forces.