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China upgrades status of strategic missile forces


Beijing : China has elevated the status of the strategic nuclear missile forces of its army, navy and air force and formed a new force to provide electronic and cyber intelligence backup for precision missile strikes in war, in a major overhaul of one of the world’s largest militaries.

In the newly-revamped structure of its 2.3 million-strong military, China’s powerful missile force – the Second Artillery Corps (SAC) – which was formed in 1966 has been renamed as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force (PRF) while a new PLA Strategic Support Force (SSF) has been formed.

With a variety of short-, medium- and long-range nuclear and conventional missiles, China’s missile force is regarded as one of the biggest in the world.

On Thursday, China confirmed reports of the PLA conducting scientific tests of a railcar-based long-range missile capable of hitting targets across the US.

Inaugurating the PRF and SSF, President Xi Jinping today conferred military flags on the general command of the two new units at a ceremony.

CCTV said besides renaming the missile force, Xi who is also the head of the military, elevated the status of the new force with the army, navy and air force. The two new forces will not be “subordinating forces”.

While the PRF with number of missiles will carry on as a strategic deterrence force, the job of the SSF will be to provide proper electronic intelligence to it in times war.

The new forces which is part of the cyber warfare will play in important role China’s plans to win “information wars”, it said.

China’s military which is in the middle of a massive anti-corruption campaign with about 40 top commanders under investigation is currently undergoing a big revamp of its command structure.

Inaugurating the forces Xi who is the Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) which oversees all military forces said the formation of the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force is a major decision by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to realise the Chinese dream of a strong military, and a strategic step to establish a modern military system with Chinese characteristics.

It will be a key milestone in the modernisation of the Chinese military and will be recorded in the history of the people’s armed forces, said Xi who is also the general secretary of the CPC.

He said the PLA Rocket Force is a “core force of strategic deterrence, a strategic buttress to the country’s position as a major power, and an important building block in upholding national security”.

He asked the officers and soldiers of the PRF to understand the roles and tasks of the force, and to follow the requirement of maintaining both conventional and nuclear weaponry and the ability to deter and strike across the entire defence area.

Xi also called on the PRF to enhance nuclear deterrence and counter-strike capacity which is credible and reliable, medium- and long-range precision strike ability, as well as strategic check-and-balance capacity to build a strong and modern Rocket Force, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Noting that the PLA Army is the oldest force led and founded by the CPC, Xi praised its long history, “tremendous military exploits and immortal deeds”.

“The PLA Army has played an irreplaceable role in defending national sovereignty, security and development interests,” Xi said.

He called on army soldiers to embrace honourable traditions, adapt to changing situations in the digital age and explore new patterns in land battles.

The army needs to optimise its structure and composition, expedite its transformation from regional defence to universal fighting and build itself into a powerful modern land force.

A new force in safeguarding national security, the SSF represents “an important growth point” of the Chinese military in modern war, Xi said.

Xi called on the soldiers of the force to achieve leapfrogging development in key fields, set a high bar and strive to build a strong modern strategic support force.

Under the new structure of the military command system all wings of PLA will operate under a joint operational command.

China has seven military area commands – Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Jinan, Shenyang, Lanzhou and Guangzhou.

Of these, Chengdu is responsible for security on the border in the Tibet region with India’s eastern sector along Arunachal Pradesh while Lanzhou partly looks after the western sector, including Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

As per the new strategic zone plan announced by Xi, both  Chengdu and Lanzhou get integrated into strategic command region making them perhaps the biggest operational areas for the Chinese military.

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