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October 2, 2009

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China shows its advanced weaponry

CHINA yesterday displayed its most sophisticated weaponry in a grand parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

Fifty-two types of new weapon systems produced by China's own engineers and technicians, including the country's most advanced nuclear-capable missiles, were displayed. Ninety percent of the weapons were paraded for the first time.

Fifty-six phalanxes, consisting of 8,000 servicemen and women, nearly 500 tanks, missiles and other military vehicles and 151 warplanes, joined the parade in front of Tian'anmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

The most eye-catching weapons paraded were five types of missiles of the Second Artillery Force, China's core force for strategic deterrence, including China's most sophisticated intercontinental missiles.

China started to develop strategic missiles in 1956. Over the past decades, the SAF has grown into "a lean and effective strategic force with both nuclear and conventional missiles, capable of land-based strategic nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles," a White Paper on National Defense released last January said.

Despite the improvement of its nuclear-capable weapons, China has repeatedly assured the world that it pursues "a self-defense nuclear strategy."

"We have adhered to the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstance and made the unequivocal commitment that we will unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones," President Hu Jintao said last week in a speech at the UN Security Council nuclear summit in New York.

The parade also displayed advanced weapons of the Navy, including anti-ship missiles, ship-to-air missiles, ground-to-ship missiles and amphibious vehicles.

Other sophisticated weaponry on display included China's new generation of tanks, sophisticated radar, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite communication devices.

Following the ground formations was a fly-over featuring 151 warplanes ranging from China's most advanced fighter jets to airborne early warning and control aircraft, bombers, aerial tankers and helicopters.

"With new fighter jets, airborne early warning and control aircraft, aerial tankers and a series of new air-to-air, air-to-ground, ground-to-air missiles, China's Air Force is forming a complete and advanced combat system," said Professor Wang Mingliang with the Air Force Command College.

Military watchers agreed that in addition to its hardware, the "soft capabilities" of the Chinese army have also been greatly upgraded, and People's Liberation Army, once composed mainly of uneducated soldiers, is being transformed into a lean, professional and high-tech force.

Li Hanjun, commander of the Naval Academy formation, said all the student officers in his formation have two majors. Nearly one-third of them have traveled overseas on warships and some even sailed around the world.

"Compared with my generation, they have much broader vision," the 44-year-old Li said.


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