China's neighbors and the United States are closely monitoring Beijing's defense budget (Reuters)

An official work report revealed that China will increase its military budget this year by 7.2%, reaching 1 trillion and 665 million yuan (about 231 billion dollars).

The rate of increase in the military budget or "defense spending" is the same as last year, but it is higher than the rate of economic growth that the government expects.

China has set an economic growth target for 2024 of about 5%, similar to last year's target, according to the same official work report that news agencies said they had seen and revealed its details on Tuesday.

Beijing is scheduled to officially announce its military budget with the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the country's national legislature, on Tuesday in the presence of President Xi Jinping and thousands of delegates from all over the country.

Beijing's military budget will be announced today in the presence of President Xi Jinping (Associated Press-Archives)

Taiwan issue

China's neighbors and the United States are closely monitoring Beijing's defense budget, as they are concerned about its strategic intentions and the development of its armed forces as tensions have risen sharply in the past few years regarding Taiwan.

In a separate report, China said it would "firmly oppose separatist activities aimed at Taiwan independence and external interference."

The work report added that China "will be resolute in advancing the cause of China's reunification," neglecting to mention the phrase "peaceful reunification" that appeared in previous reports.

China considers Taiwan one of its provinces that has not yet been able to reunite with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

China says it prefers to reunite in a "peaceful" way with the island, whose population of about 23 million is governed by a democratic regime, but it does not rule out resorting to military force to do so if necessary.

The increase in defense spending this year represents the ninth consecutive increase in single digits.

As in previous years, no details were provided for this spending, and China only mentioned the total amount and the rate of increase.

Source: Al Jazeera + agencies