Montreal Gazette

China lays bare military might for the first time

Attacks U.S. ‘pivot’ to Asia

- TOM PHILLIPS

SHANGHAI — China has laid bare the scale of its rapidly expanding military might for the first time in a paper that argues the United States’ “pivot to Asia” is destabiliz­ing the region.

China’s People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has 850,000 service members spread across seven regional commands, according to the defence report issued Tuesday. The navy and air force have 235,000 and 398,000 members respective­ly.

The paper also alludes to China’s Second Artillery Force. Described as “the country’s core force for strategic deterrence,” it oversees China’s nuclear arsenal and is tasked with “deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China.”

The total number of members listed was 1.48 million. In 2006, China said the military had a total of 2.3 million members. It was not clear if the new count represente­d a real reduction in numbers, or if the shortfall was made up by other ground force units omitted from the count, including the Second Artillery Force.

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, said the paper represente­d the first time China had made public “the actual number of army, navy and air force servicemen.” China’s “main missile lineup” was also being divulged for the first time, Xinhua added.

The report also attacked U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot,” suggesting his policy of boosting the U.S. military footprint there was causing frictions.

“The U.S. is adjusting its Asia-Pacific security strategy and the regional landscape is undergoing profound changes,” it said. “Frequently (this policy) makes the situation there more tense.”

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