China says military spending to grow 18% in 2007

China will boost military spending by 17.8 percent in 2007, a spokesman for the national legislature said, the biggest jump in more than a decade. Jiang Enzhu, meanwhile, also lashed out at the president of Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by China, accusing him of manipulating Taiwan's political divisions to steer it toward formal independence, something Beijing has vowed to prevent using military force if necessary. Jiang said the 350.92 billion yuan (US$44.94 billion; €34.14 billion) defense budget would mainly be spent on boosting wages and living allowances for members of the armed forces and on upgrading armaments "in order to enhance the military's ability to conduct defensive operations." He did not give any details. The jump is the third highest since 1990, surpassed only by hikes of 21 percent in 1995 and 18 percent in 1994. Last year's increase was 14.7 percent, while the figure for 2005 was 12.6 percent. China's 2.3 million-strong military is the world's largest but has been criticized abroad for its lack of transparency. The Pentagon believes China's total military spending may be much greater since the announced budget doesn't include weapons purchases and other key items.