Taiwan and China have engaged in a new round of verbal sparring aggravated by Beijing's announcement of increased defense spending and Taipei's latest call for independence. China said it would increase military spending (LAT) by 18 percent, lifting its defense budget to $45 billion. The announcement came less than two months after a controversial anti-satellite test and coincided with a visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who called for greater transparency in China's military spending. Beijing, in turn, raised opposition to Washington's plans to sell some $400 million in weapons to Taiwan. Negroponte countered that the weapons “would be for strictly defensive purposes” (IHT). But the proposed arms deal comes as Taiwan reveals it conducted a February test of a cruise missile capable of hitting mainland China (Stratfor).