China has announced $178.2 billion defense budget, a 6.6 percent growth for this year

Singapore (GDC) — China has announced a 6.6 percent growth in its defense budget for this year, its lowest rate of increase for almost three decades although China’s economy shrinking by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time last year.

“We will deepen reforms in national defense and the military, increase our logistic and equipment support capacity, and promote innovative development of defense-related science and technology,” he told legislators at the opening of the National People’s Congress, which kicked off Friday at the Great Hall of the People in China’s capital, Beijing.

The growth in China’s defense budget would see spending rise from $167 billion last year to $178.2 billion, an increase of about $11 billion. The country has the second-largest defense budget in the world, behind only the United States.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on the issue of Taiwan during his speech, reiterating that China would “resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence.” He also called on the Taiwanese people to “join the mainland in opposing Taiwanese independence and to promote reunification.”

Li’s call for reunification came as U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper reaffirmed that the country would stand by Taiwan. Speaking on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Esper said the U.S. would “certainly live up to our commitments to Taiwan,” noting that it is also bound by the Taiwan Relations Act enacted by Congress, which pledges to supply Taiwan with weapons it needs for its defense.

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Accordingly, the U.S. State Department announced Thursday that it has approved the sale of an additional 18 heavyweight submarine torpedoes to Taiwan for $180 million. The Mk 46 Mod 6 Advanced Technology torpedoes will equip Taiwan’s submarine fleet, and the approval follows another for 48 similar weapons in 2017. The US State Department also approved sale of 66 Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70 with associated armaments and support packages.

Taiwan has reported that Chinese military activity around the island continues unabated throughout the ongoing pandemic, with Chinese naval vessels and military aircraft regularly operating in international airspace and waters around Taiwan.

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