Regional conflicts on cards: China

The rare comments by top Chinese defence official coincides with rising tensions in Korean peninsula.

Beijing: As tension simmers in the Korean peninsula, China has said a regional conflict cannot be ruled
out, but its armed forces comprising 2.3 million personnel are
"better prepared" to deal with any eventuality.

"Despite growing (China`s) national power and global
influence, the international situation remains complex, while
more and more unstable factors are shadowing China`s
security," Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie said.

A war "which involves the whole country" is unlikely
at the moment, but there is a possibility that a mishap or
accident might ignite regional conflicts, state run China
Daily quoted Liang as saying at the military headquarters

"To enhance our comprehensive national power, (we have to
ensure) our core interests are not hampered. We have to put
nation`s sovereignty and security in top position that is the
common understanding of whole Party ( ruling Communist Party
of China) and all the people.", he said.

In an interview to state run Xinhua news agency Liang
said China`s 2.3 million strong armed forces emerged "more
powerful" with upgraded weapons and high quality personnel at
a time when "regional military conflicts cannot be ruled out".

China, a close ally of Pakistan, also has a long running
boundary dispute with India.

Though the two countries are attempting to resolve it
through talks between special representatives, the recent
claims by China that the Sino-India border was only about 2000
km and not as asserted by India that it is 3500 km caused
concern as the Chinese claim totally blanks out the western
sector involving the Jammu and Kashmir.

Although China has experienced around 30 years of peace,
the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has never relaxed its
military preparations and vigilance, especially at a time when
there are threats of a regional military conflicts.

He said the PLA, which combines the army, navy and the
air force, emerged more powerful with upgraded weapons and
high-quality personnel even though it had cut down the size of
the its "reserves and militias" of the military by about 2.9

The rare comments by top Chinese defence official
coincides with the rising tensions in Korean peninsula
following a chain of events recently. South Korea along with
its ally United States stepped up the frequency of military
exercises and Washington has dispatched three aircraft careers
to the region to deal with any potential conflict.

While, Beijing, a close strategic ally of North Korea,
appealed for talks between the concerned parties, but so far
refrained from joining any military manoeuvres.

Liang comments also came in the back drop of reports in
US media that Chinese military is not powerful technologically
and needs a long way to go.

"Without the military of more than two million troops
China will be a weak country. A major aspect of its strong
national power, I think, is a strong defence," Liang said.

Analysts here also say that by regional conflicts, the
Chinese minister in a broader context could also be referring
to emerging tensions China and Japan over the disputed islands
which escalated in the recent months.

Beijing also resents US involvement in disputes over a
host of islands in South China Sea involving China and a
number of Southeast Asian countries and tensions on that front
also were raising with these countries seeking more deeper
engagement by Washington to deal with increasingly assertive

China`s military build up will correspond with the
rapidly developing economy and enhanced national power, he

The minister also said that China`s armed forces could
only depend on themselves, not others, to ensure modernisation
and the development of equipment.

"In the next five years, our economy and society will
develop faster, boosting comprehensive national power. The
developments will provide an even more stable material base to
our defence and military build up. We`ll take the opportunity
and speed up modernisation of the military according to plans
already made," he said.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has discussed the 12th
Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), which includes a blueprint for the
military build up, and has left it for approval by the
National People`s Congress in 2011, he said.

Liang said the PLA had reduced the country`s military
reserves forces from 600,000 to 510,000 men and women over the
past five years.

China has also reduced the number of people in its
militias from 10 million to eight million during the same
period, Liang said. It is the first time the Chinese
government has given the exact number of people in the reserve
forces and militias, the news agency said in its report.

The reserve forces and militias can be ordered to assist
the PLA in times of emergencies. In times of peace, the PLA`s
reserves conduct regular military training and participate in
non-combat military operations, such as disaster relief work.

Looking back on the past five years, Liang viewed the
period as one of rapid development for the Chinese military
that resulted in "historic, huge achievements".

The last five years also saw the military supporting
major events including disaster relief, Liang said. "The
military comes from the people and serves the people. It is
incumbent on them to help when the country experiences

The PLA`s capability to engage in modern warfare has also
increased sharply and the number of high-quality military
personnel is growing, especially those for operations that
demand a commanding knowledge of a specific technology, Liang

However, "the level of modernization of the Chinese
military still lags far behind developed countries," he added.

But, China has also made significant progress in
international military exchanges and established them with
more than 150 countries and defence and security dialogue with
22 countries, he said.


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