China’s President Xi Jinping ordered the Southern Theatre Command, the nation’s military group that monitors the South China Sea and Taiwan, to “prepare the war” last Thursday. He told the state broadcaster CCTV that it was important for the military to be prepared for war. President Xi said: “It’s necessary to strengthen the mission and concentrate preparations for fighting a war.”
He made his comments during an inspection of the Southern Theatre Command located in Guangdong province. President Xi told the South China Morning Post the military exercises would allow for the troops to be better prepared in the event that there is an actual conflict. He added: “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”
Beijing claims the South China Sea belongs to China, but this is disputed by other countries in the area, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan. China’s Minister of Defence Wei Fenghe explained at the Xiangshan Forum opening ceremony that China is willing to do whatever it takes to preserve its territory and prevent the separation of Taiwan from mainland China. He said: “China will take decisive steps regardless of the cost to preserve its territorial integrity and repel attempts to separate Taiwan from the country.”
While China views Taiwan as part of its territory, Taiwan argues they are their own separate country and independent of China.
While tensions between the US and China are already escalating, last month relations reach a new low when a Chinese ship nearly crashed into the USS Decatur. A fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Collin Koh, explained President Xi is trying to stress the importance of China’s territorial claims.
Mr Koh explained: “It’s likely intended as a signal to the US in particular and any parties that Beijing perceives to be causing provocation in the disputed waters.”
Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based analyst, added to this explanation: “The United States is expected to conduct more freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea region, and because it does not recognize Beijing’s rights to artificial islands, like Mischief Reef. There will probably be more military friction between the two countries there.”