China on Thursday announced its smallest defence budget increase in several years and sought to soothe foreign concerns that its rapid military modernisation posed a threat to other countries.
The proposed military budget for 2010 rose to 532.1 billion yuan (77.9 billion dollars), up 7.5 percent from actual defence spending in 2009, a government spokesman said.
The figure breaks a string of double-digit increases that had raised concerns overseas about China's military intentions.
"China is committed to peace," said Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the National People's Congress (NPC), as he unveiled the figure.
"The sole purpose of China's military strength is to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he told a news conference.
The figure was contained in a budgetary report submitted to the congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, Li said. The annual NPC session opens on Friday.
The bulk of the spending increase will go toward improving conditions for China's 2.3 million servicemen and women and for military modernisation, he said.