Chinese General: Prepare for Combat with Japan
China’s most powerful military leader, in an unusual public statement, last week ordered military forces to prepare for combat, as Chinese warships deployed to waters near disputed islands and anti-Japan protests throughout the country turned violent.
Protests against the Japanese government’s purchase of three privately held islands in the Senkakus chain led to mass street protests, the burning of Japanese flags, and attacks on Japanese businesses and cars in several cities. Some carried signs that read “Kill all Japanese,” and “Fight to the Death” over disputed islands. One sign urged China to threaten a nuclear strike against Japan.
Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, considered the most senior military political commissar, said Friday that military forces should be “prepared for any possible military combat,” state run Xinhua news agency reported.
Heightened tensions over the Senkakus come as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in China Monday.
Panetta, in comments made in Japan shortly before traveling to China, said, “We are concerned by the demonstrations, and we are concerned by the conflict that is taking place over the Senkaku islands.”
“The message I have tried to convey is we have to urge calm and restraint on all sides,” he said, noting any “provocation” could produce a “blow up.”
Panetta repeated the U.S. position that it is neutral in the dispute over Japan’s Senkaku islands, a small chain of islets located south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan. But he also reaffirmed the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, a treaty ally.
“We stand by our treaty obligations,” Panetta said, echoing a similar commitment made during a 2010 standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the Senkakus. ”They’re longstanding, and that has not changed.”
China claims the islands as its territory and calls them the Diaoyu islands.
Last week, following the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the Senkakus from private Japanese owners, six Chinese maritime security ships were deployed near the Senkaku islands, further heightening tensions.
Xu’s unusual comments followed reports in state-controlled Chinese media that opposed the Japanese government’s purchase of the three islands.
Xu said during a visit to military units near Taiyuan, in the northern province of Shanxi, “efforts should be made to ensure that the military is capable of resolutely performing its duty to safeguard the country’s national sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity whenever it is needed by the Party and the people.”
A U.S. official said the PLA’s most senior political general rarely makes such direct appeals to troops to prepare for combat.
Panetta told reporters en route to Japan, the first stop on a three-nation visit to Asia, “The United States does not take a position with regards to territorial disputes.”