China on Tuesday played down President Donald Trump's proposal to increase US defence budget by 10 per cent, saying it was "hypothetical" to link the hike to America's planned build up in the disputed South China Sea.
"We hope that relevant US policies and moves will be conducive to maintain world peace, prosperity and development," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters here, commenting on the US defence budget increase.
"China upholds a compressive sustainable perspective on the security. As for the US budget increase and whether it has any links with the South China Sea situation it is hypothetical question," Geng said.
China is set to unveil its defence budget – the second largest after the US – on March 4, coinciding with the opening of its Parliament — the National People's Congress.
Raising the pitch against US plans to hike the budget, state-run Global Times has called for at least 10 per cent increase in Beijing's military spending this year.
"The US is a military superpower. But it still wants to expand its military, which foreshadows the unavoidability of further strategic turbulence internationally," an editorial in the Chinese version of the daily said.
The 10 per cent proposed hike for US defence budget of about USD 600 billion was expected to add another USD 54 billion.
Last year China increased its defence spending by 7.6 per cent allocating about 954 billion yuan (around USD 143.7 billion) – about three times that of India.
The increase in China's military expenditure, especially for its navy, is aimed at safeguarding the country's fast expanding overseas interests and is a response to the unstable security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, Global Times quoted Chinese military experts as saying.
Chu Yin, associate professor at the University of International Relations, said China's rapid military development is a recurrent trend with the country's rising economic power, and is entirely legitimate and reasonable.
"It doesn't need Trump as an excuse," he told the daily.
"How can China protect millions of overseas Chinese and huge amounts of overseas investment and projects worth billions of US dollars without a powerful navy?" Chu asked.
As per China National Tourism Administration figures, since 2015, Chinese citizens made more than 120 million overseas trips annually.
The Chinese government and the Peoples' Liberation Army are responsible for protecting these people, so they have to develop the capability to match this situation, Chu said.
Yin Zhuo, a rear admiral and a senior researcher at the PLA Navy Equipment Research Centre, told China Central TV that in order to protect China's sovereignty and national interests, the PLA navy at least needs five to six aircraft- carriers to maintain presence in specific regions.