China’s Xi instructs army to strengthen training amid heightened tensions with US

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China’s President Xi Jinping has ordered the country’s military to strengthen its training to further enhance its combat preparedness, according to a report by the state-run Xinhua agency, amid heightened tensions with the US over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

“[It] should deepen actual combat training, insist on leading and promoting combat by war, strengthen research on war and combat issues, strengthen actual case-based confrontation training, strengthen emergency response specialization, strengthen front-line military combat training, and promote deep coupling of combat training to ensure that they are ready to fight at any time,” Xi instructed the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in his first order of the year to the armed forces.

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The letter to the PLA dated January 4 came amid heightened tensions with the United States over Taiwan in recent weeks.

Washington's envoy to the United Nations held a virtual talk with Taiwan's president on Thursday after her visit to the island was scrapped in a diplomatic volte-face during the chaotic last days of the Trump administration.

On New Year’s Eve, two US warships sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, drawing protest from Beijing.

Days later, Xi would pen the order to the PLA, telling them to “carry forward the spirit of fighting without fear of hardship and fear of death.”

“The commanders and fighters of the whole army must resolutely implement the decision-making instructions of the Party Central Committee and the Central Military Commission, carry forward the spirit of fighting without fear of hardship and fear of death, correct training style, sharpen fighting will, temper excellent skills, and resolutely complete the mission and tasks assigned by the party and the people in the new era,” Xi told the PLA.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stoked further tensions after releasing a statement chiding China over its actions in the South China Sea.

“The United States stands with Southeast Asian claimant states seeking to defend their sovereign rights and interests, consistent with international law. We will continue to act until we see Beijing cease its coercive behavior in the South China Sea,” Pompeo said in a written statement.

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