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China's Hu calls for powerful, combat-ready navy

Reuters | December 27, 2006

BEIJING - Chinese president and commander-in-chief Hu Jintao urged the building of a powerful navy that is prepared "at any time" for military struggle, state media reported on Thursday.

At a meeting of delegates to a Communist Party meeting of the navy on Wednesday, Hu said China, whose military build-up has been a source of friction with the United States, was a major maritime country whose naval capability must be improved.

"We should strive to build a powerful navy that adapts to the needs of our military's historical mission in this new century and at this new stage," he said in comments splashed on the front pages of the party mouthpiece People's Daily and the People's Liberation Army Daily. "We should make sound preparations for military struggles and ensure that the forces can effectively carry out missions at any time," said Hu, pictured in green military garb for the occasion.

China's naval expansion includes a growing submarine fleet and new ships with "blue water" capability, fuelling fears in the United States that its military could alter the balance of power in Asia with consequences for Taiwan.

China has said it would attack if the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own formally declares independence.

Analysts say China sees a stronger navy as a way to secure energy supplies and seaborne trade routes to help ease security fears over supplies of resources and oil it needs to feed its booming economy.

Hu also called for the "strict management of the navy according to law", a possible reference to a scandal in which a vice admiral was jailed for life on a charge of embezzlement.

Wang Shouye was convicted by a military court earlier this month, Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po reported, making him the most senior Chinese military officer to be jailed for corruption.

Earlier this year, Wang was sacked as navy deputy commander for bad morals and using his position to demand and accept bribes and violate laws and discipline, the report said.

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