Response to American focus in the Pacific
The People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Second Artillery Corps, its most secretive division in charge of nuclear and conventional missiles, has described its assets as a trump card as China faces a growing number of security challenges in the region.
Officers from the Second Artillery Corps provided a rare insight into the functioning of the famously mysterious division by inviting journalists from Chinese State-run media outlets to visits its headquarters near Beijing.
The officers' comments were expectedly guarded, but reflected a rising sense of confidence only days after a PLA Lieutenant-General responded to the announcement of an increased deployment by the United States of 60 per cent of its naval forces in the Pacific, up from around half, by stressing that China had the capabilities “to strike back”.
“Conventional missiles are a trump card in modern warfare,” Tan Weihong, the brigade's commander, told the official China Daily. “So we must be ready at any time. We must be able to deliver a quick response to attacks, hit the targets with high accuracy, and destroy them totally.”
He added that of the 114 missiles the brigade had launched so far, “all have accurately hit the target”.
The officers revealed that the brigade spent one-third of every year outside its bases, testing its missile-launching vehicles in different terrains, from the forests of south China — most of the deployments, according to many analysts, are thought to be directed towards Taiwan, still awarded utmost importance by the PLA — to the “windy plateaus of the nation's northwest”, in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), where the disputed border with India is the presumed focus.
Brigade commander Tan said the brigade had developed a new commanding system “to replace the old one that was based on vocal orders” to enhance its capabilities for multiple launches. “The new system can handle multiple launches at the same time, which was impossible in the past,” he said.
On Saturday, PLA Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquan, who represented the Chinese delegation at the Shangri-La security dialogue in Singapore where the U.S. announced its new commitments to the Pacific, said China would improve the capabilities of its forces to “strike back” against any threat to its fundamental interests.
While he stressed that China “will not attack unless we are attacked”, he cautioned that China had “the measures to strike back when fundamental national interests are under threat.” His comments drew attention against the backdrop of on-going disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, where their ships have been involved in a stand-off, and increasing concern in Beijing over new
American moves, including strengthening its naval presence, deploying 2,500 marines in Australia and boosting ties with the Philippines.
“We still face a very complex, sometimes severe, situation,” said Lieutenant-General Ren. “We will be prepared for all complexities. There's a saying: Work for the best and prepare for the worst.”