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Jiang heaps praise on missile corps

Jiang has urged missile corps members to develop hi-tech training
Jiang has urged missile corps members to develop hi-tech training  

Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN's Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- President Jiang Zemin has praised the role of the missiles corps in safeguarding sovereignty and achieving national reunification.

Most official newspapers on Wednesday ran a long dispatch on the special concern that Jiang had shown for the Second Artillery or missiles division of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"Chairman Jiang has fully confirmed the important status of strategic missiles," the dispatch said.

It quoted Jiang, also Chairman of the Central Military Commission, as telling officers of the missiles corps: "You must be particularly resolute [in ideological matters]; you must be able to pass tough tests; and you must be particularly reliable."

Beijing analysts said the state media was playing up tougher statements made by Jiang as well as PLA officers in view of the recent coziness between the US and Taiwan.

The Chinese government is worried that more Taiwan officials might visit the US in the wake of Taiwan Defense Minister Tang Yiau-ming's participation in a conference in Florida earlier this month.

The special dispatch on Wednesday's papers also quoted Jiang as urging members of the missiles corps to "deeply develop hi-tech training in line with the tasks of warfare."

It is believed that should Beijing use the military option against Taiwan, missiles would play a crucial role in knocking out military and civilian installations on the island.

Military drills

A few months after former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui went to New York in 1995, the PLA launched a series of missile drills very close to Taiwan cities including Taipei.

Western military analysts in Beijing and Hong Kong said should more senior Taiwan officials visit the US, one retaliatory step Beijing might take is to unleash another round of intimidating war games along the south-eastern coasts.

The analysts said the PLA command was shocked by the recently leaked Pentagon report that the US might use nuclear weapons against China for eventualities including conflict between the mainland and Taiwan.

Generals in the Second Artillery Corps have been at the forefront of the campaign for more funds, even though the National People's Congress had last week already granted the PLA a 17.6 percent budget hike.

On Wednesday, the People's Daily ran a commentary attacking Americans with "Cold War mentality" who were pursuing unilateralism and hegmonism in international affairs.




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