With reporting from Steven Jiang in Beijing
China said Sunday it plans to increase its defense budget by 11.2%, following similar increases in years past and coming on the heels of a renewed U.S. push in the region.
The planned increase would lift spending to some 670 billion yuan ($106.4 billion) in 2012, which is almost 68 billion more than 2011 spending, said Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the National People's Congress.
By comparison, the proposed U.S. defense budget for the 2013 fiscal year is $613.9 billion, including $525.4 billion in base spending. That budget cuts half a trillion dollars in spending increases over the next 10 years.
Li spoke a day before the annual session of the Chinese legislature is scheduled to start in Beijing.
"The Chinese government follows the principle of coordinating defense development with economic development. It sets the country's defense spending according to the requirement of national defense and the level of economic development," he said.
Last year, China announced it would increase its defense budget by close to 13%. It reported a 7.5% increase the year before.
Li stressed that China's defense spending will go primary toward living expenses, training, maintenance and equipment, China's state news agency Xinhua reported. Given the country's population, long coastline and large territory, the outlays are low, he said.
"The limited military strength of China is solely for safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not pose a threat to any country," the news agency reported Li as saying.
Still, China's announcement is sure to stoke concerns among some its neighbors.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to use force against the island if it ever formally sought independence.
China also has claimed a significant portion of the South China Sea as its own territorial waters, putting it in conflict with other nations that have made claims on portions of the region.
The move is similarly sure to raise eyebrows in Washington, where President Barack Obama is pursuing a more aggressive approach in the region.
During last year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the president stressed the importance of the Pacific to global economic security.
And this year, Obama and top defense officials unveiled a new U.S. defense strategy that focuses heavily on the Asia-Pacific region, a fast-growing economic powerhouse with numerous potential flashpoints that the administration has identified as crucial to U.S. interests.
The strategy calls for the United States to increase its military's "institutional weight and focus on enhanced presence, power projection, and deterrence in Asia-Pacific," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Xinhua, while welcoming a peaceful U.S. role in the region, cautioned in a commentary then against the United States acting like a "bull in a china shop."