China's Hu: Navy must be combat-ready
Beijing - Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the country's navy on Tuesday to prepare for military combat and advance naval modernisation as part of efforts to safeguard world peace.
The navy should "accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security and world peace", Hu said in a speech.
According to a statement on the government's website, Hu was speaking to the nation's powerful Central Military Commission at a meeting in Beijing focused on military armament and the latest developments in the navy.
"Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building," Hu said.
In a translation of Hu's comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China's navy should "make extended preparations for warfare," strengthening the term "junshi douzheng" that can be also translated as "military combat" or "military struggle".
Hu's comments come after China said late last month it would conduct naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean, following a major diplomatic campaign by President Barack Obama to assert the United States as a Pacific power.
The defence ministry said the exercises did not target any particular country, but the announcement comes against a background of growing tensions over maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific region.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month also warned against interference by "external forces" in regional territorial disputes including in the South China Sea, a strategic and resource-rich area where several nations have overlapping claims.
China claims all of the maritime area, as does Taiwan, while four Southeast Asian countries declare ownership of parts of it, with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.