China unveiled Wednesday an economic growth target of 7.5 percent for this year and plans to boost its 2014 military spending by 12.2 percent, marking a fresh double-digit increase of its defense budget.
The world's second-largest economy announced a military budget of 808.23 billion yuan ($131.8 billion), compared with 720 billion yuan last year, as it opened the annual legislative session of China's National People's Congress.
China's rapid military modernization has increased tensions with its Asian neighbors at a time when it is embroiled in bitter territorial disputes with Japan and other nations over islands in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
In light of these developments, the U.S. has announced steps to expand cooperation with other Asian nations in the region as part of its "pivot to Asia" policy.
"We will resolutely safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the opening session.
In a work report to the rubber-stamp legislative session, Li said the rise in military spending is partly aimed at enhancing "coastal and air defenses."
"We will safeguard the victory of World War II and the post-war international order, and will not allow anyone to reverse the course of history," said the report, echoing a phrase often used by China when commenting on its rivalry with Japan.
Last November, China declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, drawing protests from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.
China's economy grew 7.7 percent last year, with the country's leaders focusing on putting the world's second-largest economy on the path to more sustainable growth.
Li said China will aim to keep inflation at about 3.5 percent, while implementing a "people-centered urbanization."
Campaigns against corruption and efforts to reduce air pollution are also high on the agenda for the 10-day legislative session.
Security was tight at the Great Hall of the People, where the session is being held, in the wake of a stabbing attack on Saturday at a railway station in Kunming, southwestern China.
The attack killed 29 people and injured more than 120, with Chinese authorities blaming separatists from Xinjiang for the attack. (Yonhap)