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China: Iraq strikes signal new U.S. 'aggressiveness'

PLA military vehicles
Some western diplomats believe the People's Liberation Army is lobbying for a budget increase  

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Chinese military authorities have cited the air-strikes against Iraq as evidence of the "aggressiveness" of the new administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

In a commentary on Monday, the official Liberation Army Daily said the joint American-British action against Iraq "should raise the alarm of the world."

It added the air-strikes reflected a new American tendency to "put emphasis on military solutions, and to seek a position of hegemony in the world."

The army mouthpiece also claims Bush's determination to push forward a national missile defense system and his proposal for a military budget exceeding U.S.$310 billion as evidence of Washington's new belligerence.

The Daily story, which was picked up by official news wires and websites, came on the heels of a large number of negative stories in the military and civilian media about the defense and foreign policies of the Bush administration.

PLA lobbying for budget increase

In recent speeches, senior generals including the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Zhang Wannian have warned of the need to boost China's defense capability in view of "new uncertainties in the world."

Some western diplomats in Beijing believe the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is lobbying for a bigger budget in the run-up to the plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament.

A Western diplomat in Beijing said the PLA was engaged in a war of rhetoric to persuade Washington to give up or scale down its anti-missile defense system and to desist from selling missile defense-related weapons to Taiwan.

"The PLA is demanding an increase in the budget at least in line with the 10 percent or so that they secured in the past several years," the diplomat said. "The generals are citing the threat from the U.S. as a major reason for the increase."

The NPC, which opens on March 5, will approve the 10th Five Year Plan (2001 -2005) and the military budget for this year.

Analysts say the party leadership was under heavy pressure from the central and western provinces to spend more on infrastructure development in these impoverished areas during the five-year plan period.

They say moderate leaders such as Premier Zhu Rongji were not favorably disposed towards a big army budget increase because of the relative drop in tension in flashpoints such as the Taiwan Strait.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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