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China's Party Chief Tells Army to Be Ready for War

Reuters | September 30 2004

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Communist Party chief and President Hu Jintao has urged the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to prepare for a military struggle, but stopped short of singling out rival Taiwan as the target.

Many security analysts see the Taiwan Strait as the most dangerous flashpoint in Asia. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has threatened to attack if the democratic island of 23 million people declares independence.

Hu, who assumed the role of military chief less than two weeks ago, told the 2.5-million-strong PLA to "seize the moment and do a good job of preparing for a military struggle," the People's Daily and the Liberation Army Daily said on Thursday.

Hu did not say against whom the struggle might be fought.

But on Wednesday, a spokesman for China's policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office accused Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun of clamoring for war with threats to fire missiles at Shanghai if the PLA attacked the self-ruled island.

Taiwan needed a counter-strike capability, Yu said in defense of plans to buy T$610.8 billion (US$18.2 billion) worth of weapons from the United States.

He made the remarks hours before thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei on Saturday to demand the government scrap the weapons package they said would trigger an arms race with China and squeeze social welfare and state spending on education.

Tension between China and Taiwan has been simmering since the re-election in March of the island's President Chen Shui-bian, who Beijing is convinced will push for statehood during his second four-year term.

Beijing and Taipei have been rivals since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, but trade, investment and tourism have blossomed since detente in the late 1980s.

Hu also urged the PLA, the world's biggest army, to "comprehensively revolutionize, modernize and standardize," newspapers said. No details were given.

Hu, 61, replaced Jiang Zemin, 78, as chairman of the Central Military Commission on Sept. 19, completing the most orderly leadership succession in the 55 years since the Communist Party took power.

The following day he promoted two senior officers in a move that was likely to help consolidate his position in the PLA.

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