Another reshuffle has taken place in the PLA Navy with the announcement of three senior appointments, prompting speculation the move could be linked to strained cross-strait relations. Navy general chief of staff Vice-Admiral Zhao Xingfa had been appointed deputy commander-in-chief, the Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po reported yesterday. Vice-Admiral Zhao's former post was filled by his deputy, Rear Admiral Sun Jianguo, while another deputy, Rear Admiral Zhang Yongyi, became the navy's deputy commander-in-chief. Vice-Admiral Zhao was commander of the navy's Qingdao base before becoming deputy general chief of staff. Rear Admiral Sun, 53, a Hebei native, led the Chinese nuclear submarine Long March III in a 1985 long-distance cruise. Rear Admiral Zhang, 55, was involved in the handling of the collision between a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet near Hainan in 2001, the report noted. He was also commander-in-chief of the North China Sea fleet's air force. According to the report, the navy's general chief of staff and deputy commander-in-chief are at the same level of seniority as a military region's deputy commander. Quoting military experts, the report said the frequent reshuffles could be an indication the People's Liberation Army was intensifying preparations for possible military conflict across the Taiwan Strait. Another reason cited was that many senior navy officers were approaching the retirement age of 63, it said. Last week, the newspaper reported that North China Sea fleet political commissar Vice-Admiral Wu Huayang had been appointed deputy political commissar of the navy.