The Chinese defense minister Chang Wanquan has warned the tense situation in the South China Sea poses the threat of a direct confrontation and has called on the military, police and general population to be ready to safeguard sovereignty and defend the country’s territorial integrity.
Wanquan warned of maritime security threats and called for increased preparations for what he termed a “people’s war at sea” as Beijing seeks to “safeguard sovereignty”
He also asked that national defense education be promoted among the public.
The warning comes a day after China launched a massive naval drill which is set to prepare China for a “sudden, cruel and short” war.
The seriousness of the national security situation should be recognized, particularly when it comes to threats posed at sea, Chang said.
The Chinese military, law enforcement and citizens must be ready for mobilization in the event of a “people’s war at sea,” he added.
The general public should be educated about national defense issues because national sovereignty and territorial integrity are at risk, according to the minister.
Chang’s statement comes amid unprecedented tensions over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building airstrips and military installations on reclaimed reefs and islands in waters also claimed by a number of other Asian states.
The US Navy has dispatched warships and military planes to the immediate proximity of the disputed islands, claiming it has done so to ensure the principles of freedom of navigation in international waters. Washington has been also involved in a number of military drills in the region.
Beijing has slammed the naval and aerial displays by the US as provocations, and reinforced installation on the islands with anti-ship missile and air-defense complexes.
China’s 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is “fully confident and capable of addressing various security threats and provocations,” Chang said last weekend while addressing a summit dedicated to the 89th anniversary of the PLA’s founding.