China Xi asks the army to be ready for battle

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The soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) take part in a combat training in the Gobi Desert in Jiuquan, Gansu Province, China on May 18. Photo taken on 18 May 2018. REUTERS / Traversa

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China's armed forces need to strengthen their sense of urgency and do their utmost to prepare for the battle, President Xi Jinping said a summit meeting on Friday.

China is ready to reinforce its armed forces amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea and to increase tensions with the United States on issues ranging from trade to the state of Taiwan.

The official Xinhua news agency said that Xi told a meeting of the highest military authority that China has faced increasing risks and challenges and that the armed forces must work to ensure security and development needs.

Xi, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the armed forces must devise strategies for the new era and take responsibility for preparing and leading the war.

"The world is facing a period of great change never seen in a century, and China is still in an important period of strategic development opportunities," he said.

He said that the armed forces had to be able to respond quickly to emergencies needed to improve their joint operational capabilities and feed new types of fighting forces.

Xi's comments followed his remarks on Wednesday that China has still reserved the right to use force to achieve "reunification" with Taiwan and prevent the independence of the island.

Xi's speech on Taiwan came just days after US President Donald Trump signed the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act into law, reaffirming the United States' commitment to island security.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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