Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the newly formed Rocket Force of the PLA which handles the country’s growing arsenal of missiles has played an “irreplaceable” role in helping Beijing to become a “major power” by warding off war threats.
Inspecting the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Rocket Force on Monday, Mr. Xi, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), described the force as a “core of strategic deterrence, a strategic buttress to the country’s position as a major power, and a cornerstone on which to build national security.”
The PLA Rocket Force was established last year, part of a wider military structural reform drive in the 22,85,000 strong PLA, the world’s largest standing army.
Mr. Xi, who is also the head of the military, had conferred the military flag on the Rocket Force at its inauguration ceremony held in Beijing on December 31, 2015.
Amid the changing international situation and major challenges to national security, the Rocket Force has played an “irreplaceable” role in containing war threats, ensuring a secure and favourable strategic posture for China, as well as maintaining global strategic balance and stability, Mr. Xi was quoted as saying by the state-run China Daily.
He asked the Rocket Force to increase its sense of crisis and strengthen its strategic ability so as to provide a safe and strategic security environment to the nation.
Last year, China has during a parade showcased a whole range of long, medium and short range missiles, including its Dongfeng—21D missile and the anti-ship ballistic missile described as the “carrier killer”.
It had caused concern among U.S. defence officials as it could blow up aircraft carriers from a distance of about 1500 km to 1700 km.
“New breakthroughs should be made in enhancing the troop’s strategic containment capacity, combat preparedness and application of strategy,” Mr. Xi said and asked the Rocket Force to follow the Party’s absolute leadership, maintain a high degree of consistency with the CPC Central Committee.
Mr. Xi’s comments came amid growing tensions with the U.S. and Japan over the South China Sea, disputed islands in the East China Sea and efforts by North Korea to ramp up its nuclear capability despite international sanctions.
In South China Sea, China is on the back foot after an international tribunal quashed its historic claims over the whole area.
The U.S. has waded into the region in a big way extending military backing to Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan which counter Beijing’s claims.
Amid growing tensions, China on Monday flew its biggest contingent of war planes to west Pacific, close to Japanese Okinawa coast to conduct its biggest air exercises.
China is also opposed to the U.S. move to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, (THAAD) defence missile systems in South Korea to ward off threats missile threats from North Korea.