China’s President Xi Jinping has demanded the military of Southern Theater Command to “prepare for war” as he tours the country to increase confidence amid a trade war with the US.
China’s premier said the military responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan should ensure it is able to “handle any emergency”.
The president said: “It is necessary to strengthen the mission and concentrate preparation for fighting a war.
“We need to talk all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.
“We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercise and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”
Xi Jinping has told the military to be ‘prepared for war’
China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe has said: “If someone tries to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese armed forces will take action at any price.
“The islands in the South China Sea have long been China’s territory. They’re the legacy of our ancestors and we can’t afford to lose a single inch of them.”
Beijing has claimed the South China Sea belongs to China but this is disputed by other countries in the area, including Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
China has increased its presence in the South China Sea by building militarised islands atop the reefs and has expanded its navy, now the world’s biggest.
At the end of September, a Chinese destroyer vessel almost crashed with a US warship in the South China Sea after it made what American military officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvre.
The US does not claim ownership of the sea but does sometimes send ships as it believes the sea should be open to freedom of navigation.
The United Nations considers the South China Sea to be international waters and has refused to recognise Beijing has any legitimate claim to the region.
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean
This comes as the retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who was the commander of US forces in Europe for 15 years, has warned tensions could escalate between Beijing and Washington.
Speaking at the Warsaw Security Forum, he said: “I think in 15 years – it’s not inevitable – but it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China.
“The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat.”