- The head of China’s newly-minted Southern Theater Command touts the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) preparedness
- He says armed forces ready to defend country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea
- He also says China has prepared for every possible scenario in the disputed region
MANILA, Philippines – With tensions in the West Philippine Sea rising even higher due to the presence of surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets on its base in Woody Island in the Paracel Island Chain, China’s military chief of the newly-minted Southern Theater Command said his country is prepared for any conflict should one break out in the West Philippine Sea.
“The military will be capable of dealing with any security threat. No country will be allowed to use any excuse or action to threaten China’s sovereignty and safety,” General Wang Jiaocheng told the South China Morning Post. “But the foremost mission is to safeguard rights and interests in the [West Philippine] Sea. My aim is to ensure security in border controls and maritime defence.”
Wang’s statement comes days after US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris warned that China is poised to take de facto control of the West Philippine Sea.
“Short of war with the United States, China will exercise de facto control of the [West Philippine] Sea,” he said. “If China continues to arm all of the bases they have reclaimed in the South China Sea, they will change the operational landscape in the region.”
China’s moves have also sparked worry among its smaller neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with members issuing a joint communiqué saying they “remained seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments.”
China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea, a region which is rich in natural resources and is also home to one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.