- Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the Southern Theatre Command to prepare for war during an inspection last Thursday.
- The command oversees the South China Sea, where tensions have been on the rise.
- A Chinese destroyer confronted a US Navy warship conducting a freedom-of-navigation operation near the Spratly Islands at the end of September, nearly causing a collision.
China’s commander-in-chief has ordered the military command overseeing the contested South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“It’s necessary to strengthen the mission … and concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” Xi said. “We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.
“We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”
According to the China Daily, Xi told troops they were “constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests”.
“I hope you can fulfil such sacred and solemn missions.”
The powerful Chinese leader has made strengthening and modernising the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a top priority.
As Xi delivered his speech in Guangdong province, Chinese Minister of Defence Wei Fenghe warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.
The US Navy recently sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, a move that, like the US military’s frequent bomber overflights and freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, angered Beijing.
Tensions have been running particularly high in the South China Sea in recent months, with regular US B-52 bomber flights through the region and Chinese PLA Navy warships challenging American military ships and aircraft that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories in the disputed waterway.
US Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said Monday that the US Navy will continue to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations and challenge “illegitimate maritime claims.”