PLAN Claims Buildup is Only for Defense Despite Hike in US Navy Spending

By | Mar 16, 2017 12:15 PM EDT
War ready?

Liaoning launches a Shenyang J-15 fighter. (Photo : PLAN)

China again claims the ongoing buildup of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is purely for "defensive purposes," but has gone on a propaganda offensive trumpeting its "first class" offensive fighting power.

China is anxious to close what will be an ever widening technological gap with its main rival, the U.S. Navy, which will see a resurgence in its fighting power given the additional funding it will receive under the next U.S. defense budget.

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The 2017 U.S. Navy shipbuilding plan now with Congress envisions an increase the size of the fleet to 308 ships by building 254 ships over a 30-year period.

Officially, China's defense spending amounts to only about a fourth of the U.S. defense budget, but many Western experts believe its actual military spending is much higher than the official figure. China consistently denies it is a military threat to anyone.

Vice Admiral Wang Huayong, deputy political commissar of the Eastern Theatre Command, said China's military forces are for defensive purposes only. To prove this, he noted that the People's Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLAMC) "remain weak, and the number and quality of long-distance vessels do not meet expectations."

China's second aircraft carrier, the domestically built CNS Shandong, "is still in training and trial stage," said Admiral Wang.

The Shandong is now awaiting fitting, and is expected to enter service with the People's Liberation Army Navy by 2020.

In contrast to Admiral Wang's insistence on a defensive-minded PLAN, Li Yanming, a deputy of the National People's Congress and  political commissar of the PLAN armaments department, said a "first-class navy should be equipped with first-class armaments."

Li also said Navy arms manufacturing would have "better quantity, quality, scope, and functionality." In addition, he believes China should be more assertive in pushing its claims in the disputed South China Sea and build more artificial islands. Defending these islands is also vital.

"We will intercept any intruding aircraft and follow every military vessel in areas under our responsibility," said Wang Weiming, PLAN deputy chief of staff.

"Our sailors should stay vigilant and be able to deal with emergencies at all times."

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