China appoints Han Weiguo as new army commander amid rising tensions

September 1, 2017 11:12 am

Chinese soldiers applaud during a parade at the Zhurihe training base in ’s northern Inner Mongolia region, on July 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

China has appointed a new army commander in a reshuffle of top posts as the country runs a large-scale program to modernize its military.
State media said on Friday that had been appointed the new commander of the People’s Liberation Army.
Han replaced Li Zuocheng, who was himself promoted to the post of the chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Army in August.
Han was previously the head of the central theater command, a military district that includes the capital, Beijing, and a large swathe of central China.
The new army commander was also previously the commanding officer in charge of a military parade in Inner Mongolia in July, in a ceremony overseen by Chinese President Xi Jinping to mark 90 years since the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.
Xi has said that the Chinese military has to turn into a “world-class” army capable of “defeating all invading enemies.”
The Chinese army was founded in 1927 and is the world’s largest standing military.
China is in a territorial dispute with India and with some of its other neighbors in the East and South China Seas.
The US has been taking the side of China’s rival claimants in the regional disputes, which involve Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.

This satellite image shows an overview of Tree Island in the disputed Paracels island chain in the South China Sea. (By AFP)

Vietnam protests ‘Chinese drill announcement’
On Thursday, Vietnam said it had contacted a Chinese embassy representative to express opposition to a Chinese announcement of military drills in the disputed South China Sea.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said on Thursday that his country was deeply concerned about the drills in the region of the Gulf of Tonkin, north of the disputed South China Sea.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang (photo by AFP)

“Vietnam proposes China to cease and refrain from repeating acts that complicate the situation in the East Sea,” she said, referring to the South China Sea, which is located on Vietnam’s east.
The Vietnamese spokeswoman, however, did not mention when China had made such an announcement about drills.
China and Vietnam have long been engaged in a dispute over territory in the South China Sea. The sea, which is a major transit route and is believed to be rich in mineral and gas resources, is mostly claimed by China.
Last month, Vietnam and the United States agreed to further improve military ties, which included agreement on a visit by a US aircraft carrier to Vietnam next year.
The US routinely sends military aircraft and warships to the disputed East and South China Seas to assert what it says is its right to “freedom of navigation.”
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