A day before Chinese and US military officials started military talks in Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao told its navy to accelerate modernisation and prepare for war.
Speaking to military officials Tuesday, Xinhua, China’s official media agency quoted President Hu as commanding the Party congress of People’s Liberation Army Navy to “make extended preparations for warfare in order to make greater contributions to safeguarding national security and world peace.”
Many observers believe that President Hu’s blunt comments are in stark contradiction to his often repeated claims of China’s “peaceful rise”.
The one-day Wednesday meeting between senior US and Chinese officials are the first ministry-level talks between the two nations since September, when Washington announced a $5.85 billion upgrade to Taiwan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets – a decision which angered Beijing.
China’s navy recently acquired its first aircraft carrier and is active in the disputed South China Sea which has off late become the scene of mounting political tension.
While the US announced last month of a full Marine task force base in northern Australia, neighbouring countries such as Philippines and Vietnam, who claim sovereignty over islands in the sea, have repeatedly accused China of overt aggression in the region.
President Hu’s comments come days after a high-ranking Chinese navy official reportedly said that China was ready to risk a third world war for Iran.
A media agency run by the Iranian government on December 4 quoted Chinese rear admiral and director of the National Defence University Military Logistics and Equipment Department Zhang Zhaozhong as saying, “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third world war.”
Meanwhile, India’s Defence Minister A K Antony said India was keeping a close watch on its national security and commercial interests in the wake of China’s announced move for exploration in the South-West Indian Ocean.
“The government keeps a constant watch on all developments concerning our national security and commercial interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them in accordance with the prevailing security situation and strategic considerations,” Antony said while responding to concerns expressed in the Indian parliament over the issue today.