China says military will respond to provocations

BEIJING (AP) — China's military is prepared to respond to all threats to the country's sovereignty, a government spokeswoman said Tuesday, ahead of the expected announcement of another big bump in defense spending.

Legislative spokeswoman Fu Ying said China supports resolving disputes through negotiations and its 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army — the world's largest — is for defensive purposes only.

However, Fu warned other nations not to test China's resolve.

"But if some countries wish to provoke or wish to damage ... regional peace and the regional order, then we must make a response, and an effective response at that," Fu told a wide-ranging news conference on the eve of the legislature's annual session.

"The point of this response, is to, on the one hand, maintain China's territory and sovereignty, and on the other hand to maintain the regional order and peace," Fu said.

Other countries should take China's sovereignty claims seriously if they truly care about regional peace and security, she said, singling out the United States by name.

Her remarks came amid festering disputes between China and its neighbors over the control of islands and sea lanes in surrounding oceans. There has been a sharp escalation of tensions with Japan in the past 18 months over control of a string of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

China is to announce its latest defense budget on Wednesday. Spending on the armed forces rose 10.7 percent last year to 720 billion yuan ($114 billion), the most for any nation apart from the U.S.