China’s Defence Spending Concerning Given ‘Failing Economy’, US Admiral Says

The increase in China’s defence spending is concerning given its economy is “failing”, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Admiral John Aquilino said China’s economy had been battered by turmoil in its real estate sector and asserted that its official growth rates were “not real”.

He also said China was spending “drastically more” on its military than the 7.2% increase it declared last month.

“Despite a failing economy, there’s a conscious decision to fund military capability. That’s concerning to me,” said Aquilino, who is due to leave his post next month.

He also criticised China’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric and actions in the South and East China Seas, specifically around the disputed Second Thomas Shoal and Taiwan.

“As it applies specifically to Taiwan, I am watching an increasingly aggressive campaign plan of coercion and pressure,” he said.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

A top Chinese military leader told a gathering of senior foreign naval officials this week that China remains committed to resolving maritime disputes with other countries through dialogue but will not allow itself to be “abused”.

Aquilino also labelled North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime “disgusting” for spending on its military even as the country has grappled with food shortages.

“This is another regime where every bit of economic advance that they may have despite the sanctions are going towards military capability and not to feeding the North Korean people. That’s disgusting,” he said.

(Editing by Gerry Doyle)