President Xi Jinping told the strategic missile force of the People’s Liberation Army to step up its strategic capability amid tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and Seoul’s missile defence system.
Xi, chairman of the Central Military Commission, told the missile division of the PLA yesterday that the force needed to build a mentality that “fears no death in battle”, state media reported.
Xi called the missile branch “the core of China’s strategic deterrence” as he inspected the force after its first Communist Party congress. He said it played an important role in “deterring the threat of war”, CCTV reported.
The missile force, formerly called the Second Artillery Corps, was updated to a force of equal significance with the army, navy and air force this year. It was part of a massive overhaul of the PLA, which aims at becoming a leaner and more efficient military.
Yue Gang, a former senior PLA colonel, said that by having its first party congress, the missile force had completed its upgrade.
“Xi wants the force to improve its capability in nuclear counter-attacks,” Yue said.
“Facing the problems of North Korea’s nuclear tests and Seoul’s THAAD, Xi feels it needs to convince other countries of China’s nuclear deterrence capability,” he said.
Pyongyang launched its fifth and biggest nuclear test in the last eight months earlier this month, receiving condemnation from the international community, including China.
Amid escalating tensions over the tests, Seoul announced in July that it and Washington were planning to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.
“China still lags far behind the nuclear capability of the US, but it is upgrading its capability,” Yue said.
China is known to have conducted at least two tests of a hypersonic glider this year. The latest model is designed to be carried by a ballistic missile to an undisclosed suborbital altitude, then released.
The vehicle then dives towards its target at speeds of up to Mach 10, or more than 12,000km/h.
The United States is the only other nation known to have developed similar technology.
The PLA Air Force said last month it had completed a domestically developed, ground-based air-defence and anti-missile system that could strike targets at various ranges and altitudes.
Analysts had earlier said they believed the air force had adapted foreign technology and improved the design of Chinese-developed missiles, including the HQ-9, HQ-6 and HQ-12 systems.