The Southern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army unveiled a series of new weapons for sea and air combat during a visit by top military officers. In a rare revelation, the weapons were shown on state television in the wake of a landmark international tribunal rejecting Beijing’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea. Military experts said the disclosure was intended to show that the newly formed Southern Theatre Command, which covers the South China Sea, was well-prepared for any potential military confrontation with the US. Has the South China Sea ruling pushed China closer to a future war with the US? In an inspection tour after the ruling, General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, which oversees the PLA, called on troops to train hard to meet any challenges, Xinhua reported on Tuesday. “Air and sea patrols should be tightly organised to handle all kinds of emergencies to ensure security of sea and air borders,” said Fan, who was accompanied by General Ma Xiaotian, commander of the PLA Air Force, and General Wei Fenghe, chief of the army’s Rocket Force, which operates the country’s missile arsenal. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said Fan’s visit indicated that the southern command could carry out joint combat operations of land, rocket, naval and air forces as well as other strategic support forces. “All the weapons showed on state media are defensive arms of short to medium range within 1,500km, meaning China so far is using restrained deterrence to warn the US not to challenge Beijing’s bottom line in the South China Sea,” Li said. Is there a way for Beijing to save face after the South China Sea arbitration ruling? State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of troops in the southern theatre handling the DF-16 missile, which has a range up to 1,000km. The missile, which was first displayed on September 3 in a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, could strike US military bases in Okinawa. Earlier reports said the southern theatre was equipped with DF-21Ds, or “carrier-killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, which have a range of 1,450km. The CCTV footage also showed new H-6K bombers. A division of the jets has been deployed to the southern theatre to patrol Scarborough Shoal.