Economic development and improvement of people's lives are the top priority for China and the nation does not spend a lot on national defence, Minister of Defence Cao Gangchuan said Wednesday in Beijing.
The total defence expenditure for this year, calculated under the new exchange rate, is US$30.2 billion, said Cao. "That is, indeed, the true budget," Cao said at a joint press conference with visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
He was responding to a journalist who asked if China has under-reported its defence budget.
The nation's primary task is economic development because nearly 30 million Chinese still live in poverty, Cao said.
He said that some expenditure, such as that on the manned Shenzhou VI space mission, had not been included in the defence budget this year.
The Pentagon, whose budget is several times bigger, has expressed concern about China's military development. It last summer inflated the figure for China's military spending this year to US$90 billion.
Rumsfeld, who arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a three-day visit, Wednesday met President Hu Jintao, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC); Cao and Guo Boxiong, both CMC vice-chairmen; and Jing Zhiyuan, commander of the Second Artillery Force.
He became the first foreigner to visit the headquarters of the Second Artillery Force, which commands China's strategic missile force.
Hu said Rumsfeld's visit will "help the military forces of our two countries to enhance mutual understanding and friendship."
The president said that leaders of the two countries are in close contact; and that the two nations have effective co-ordination in trade, the economy, anti-terrorism, non-proliferation and reform of the United Nations.
Hu said that China and the United States share a broad range of common interests and they should deal with "sensitive issues" in bilateral relations with constructive attitudes.
Rumsfeld who congratulated Chinese leaders on the successful Shenzhou VI mission said the two armies should expand exchanges in military education sector.
His trip paves the way for a visit by US President George W Bush next month.
Rumsfeld described his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Cao as "constructive, candid and useful."
On the question of Taiwan, Cao said it involves China's core interests and urged the United States to keep its promise to oppose "Taiwan independence" so that peace and stability are maintained in the region.
Rumsfeld said that his country would adhere to the one-China policy and observe the principles of the three joint communiqus between the two countries.
China and the United States have opportunities to learn from each other and better understand each other's direction and intentions, he added.
In recent years, the two militaries have strengthened ties, characterized by high-level visits, exchanges between military schools and visits of military vessels to each other's ports.
In the morning, Rumsfeld visited the Central Party School, a venue for training Party officials, and held a question-and-answer session with students and staff.
He hailed China's economic growth and said the United States would welcome a peaceful and prosperous China.
Rumsfeld's visit is the third by a US defence secretary in the past decade and the first since July 2000. He first visited China in 1974 when he was chief of staff to then-President Gerald R. Ford.
Source: China Daily