Chinese President Hu Jintao Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.
The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.
Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building.”
His remarks, which were posted on a statement on a government website, come amid growing US and regional concerns over China’s naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.
China claims all of the maritime area, as does Taiwan, while four Southeast Asian countries declare ownership of parts of it, with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.
In a translation of Hu’s comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.”
But the Pentagon on Tuesday downplayed Hu’s speech, saying that Beijing had the right to develop its military, although it should do so transparently.