THE People's Liberation Army (PLA) has set up a new office to handle Taiwan affairs, including the possible use of military force against the island. A Joint Command Centre was recently established in Fuzhou, Fujian province, to co-ordinate the Army's logistics, intelligence and other operations against the Kuomintang-held stronghold. Sources familiar with Beijing's Taiwan policy say the centre is under the direct control of the PLA's Central Military Commission and General Staff Department. It will work closely with the Nanjing Military Region, which covers the frontline province of Fujian. The centre's primary function is to prepare for the 'liberation' of Taiwan through warfare or the indirect use of force such as intimidation and coercion. 'The General Staff Department has since the 1980s had a research unit handling Taiwan issues,' a source said. 'The creation of the command centre, however, means the PLA is getting much more serious about a military option against Taiwan.' The source said the policy-setting military commission had authorised new funds to set up or revive military and engineering facilities in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, including air and artillery bases, munitions depots and other stores, barracks, tunnels and bridges. The General Staff Department and the centre have also dispatched units to inspect the 'combat-readiness' of facilities along the coast. Apart from conventional PLA units, missiles, aircraft and artillery, plus airborne and amphibious units, have been moved to Fujian and Zhejiang. Western military analysts said the centre played a pivotal role in recent war games including the 'landing exercise' along the Fujian coast disclosed by Chinese authorities yesterday. They said the generals had since mid-year played a big role in forming Beijing's overall policy towards the island. Meanwhile, 200 top military and academic experts have discussed new naval and air force strategies. The Liberation Army Daily reported yesterday 100 senior naval officers and as many 'experts and professors' had held special conferences in September and October to discuss combat techniques and methodologies. The focus of the brainstorming was to conduct 'three-dimensional offensive and defensive' warfare at sea.