Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the country’s military should accelerate its drone warfare research and training. On a visit to a military university in the northeast of the country, he also called for a drive to train more pilots as part of the ongoing efforts to boost the People’s Liberation Army’s capabilities. “Now we already have advanced aircraft and air defence weapons, we must also have a triumphant spirit, which is the soul of a strong army,” Xi told students at the PLA Air Force Aviation University in Changchun on Thursday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Xi added “the training of a pilot embodies the expectations of the [Chinese Communist] party and the people, and the hope to build a strong military”. He also said: “Drones are profoundly changing war scenarios. It is necessary to strengthen drone combat research, education and training, and accelerate the training of drone pilots and commanders.” Asian states face stark choice in threat of China-US military clash Zhou Chenming, a Beijing based military analyst, said: “China is in need of large numbers of warplane pilots due to its rapid drive to beef up its air force capabilities in recent years.” Last year, China commissioned its second aircraft carrier the Shandong, which means it will need at least 70 pilots, along with more supporting flight officers. Zhou also said that drones “cannot be overlooked” because of their increasing importance in carrying out espionage or aerial attacks. Xi’s Thursday visit came one week ahead of China’s Army Day on August 1 and amid renewed tensions between China and the United States. Earlier this month, the US conducted an air defence drill in the South China Sea, involving two aircraft carrier groups “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific”. China-India border dispute: drones prove their worth at high altitude The US has also dispatched reconnaissance aircraft and electronic surveillance planes that approached China’s coast numerous times in recent weeks, activities which prompted complaints from Beijing. The two countries’ relationship further deteriorated this week when the two sides ordered the other to close a consulate. China’s worsening ties with the US is the biggest reason for China to ramp up its military capabilities, especially its air force capabilities, said Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping. “China lacks strategic attacking capabilities, especially in areas far away from its shores,” Song said, adding that rapid aerial responses were assuming increasing importance in modern warfare.