The Ministry of National Defence denied that the PLA was already moving ahead with plans to set up a joint command headquarters to improve co-ordination between different military branches, state media reported. The defence ministry released a statement on Friday saying it was "exploring" setting up a joint command mechanism for the People's Liberation Army, without elaboration. But the Global Times , a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party's People's Daily , quoted an unnamed "authoritative figure" with the ministry yesterday as saying no trial project was in the works. The ministry did not respond to a fax seeking clarification of the reports yesterday. Military observers have said reform of the military's command structure was needed because each part remains highly independent of each other, making centralised control and joint combat missions difficult. The country also faces greater security threats at sea, increasing the need for closer co-ordination between land and naval forces The defence ministry statement last week did not spell out a timeframe for structural reforms. The Yomiuri newspaper in Japan said last week that China was planning to cut the number of military regional commands from seven to five. Citing anonymous senior military officials, the report said each of the five areas would have a joint operational command for ground, naval and air forces, plus strategic missile troops. The report said that of the existing military regions, Jinan, Nanjing and Guangzhou would set up new joint commands to oversee the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea within the next five years. A plenary session of senior leaders in November urged the PLA to improve co-ordination between its different military branches as the nation was involved in maritime and territorial disputes in the East and South China seas.