Defence chief vows PLA will protect sovereignty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am


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The People's Liberation Army will defend the country's sovereignty and development, Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie told a reception at the Great Hall of the People yesterday on the eve of the army's 83rd anniversary.

'The PLA is now at a critical development stage as more arduous and onerous tasks are ahead of us,' Liang said, according to the China News Agency.

'We should strengthen our capability to deal with multiple tasks in today's modern battlefields and be determined to safeguard our national sovereignty, security and interests in development.'

It is rare for a PLA leader to make strong remarks about the army's determination to protect the country's sovereignty and core interests since former leader Deng Xiaoping ordered the army to keep a low profile - with the famous tao guang yang huei strategy of hiding brightness and nourishing obscurity as China started opening up to the world in 1978.

Liang's speech came after the PLA held a series of military drills in the East China Sea, Yellow Sea and the disputed South China Sea, which were seen as a response to joint US-South Korean military exercises.

Beijing has often stressed its historical sovereignty and core interests in the South China Sea, where it has been involved in territorial disputes with neighbouring countries.

Liang said the PLA should be prepared for tough military struggles to protect the country's interests. '[The army's] development should be driven by the security requirement of our core national [interests].

'And we should enhance our preparations for big-scale and complicated military struggles.'

Liang also reiterated Beijing's policy to 'peacefully reunify with Taiwan'.

Apart from Beijing-based PLA veterans, ambassadors from several countries were among guests at the reception.

On Friday, Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng refused to comment when asked whether the PLA's war games were held as a response to the US-South Korean military drills.

Analysts believe Geng's refusal to comment on why the PLA drills were held appeared to be a response to US Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's claims that the South China Sea is among America's national interests.