Chinese President Xi Jinping sends a strong military warning
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping has issued a sharp warning to potential “invaders” of Beijing’s military resolve, speaking on the 70th anniversary of his nation’s entry into the Korean War, the only time Chinese forces have fought US rivals.
In a long speech on Friday, heavy on patriotism and flecked by anecdotes of heroism by Chinese forces, Xi said victory in the 1950-53 conflict was a reminder that his nation stood ready to fight anyone “creating trouble… on China’s doorstep”.
“After arduous battles, Chinese and North Korean troops, armed to their teeth, defeated their opponents, shattering the myth of the invincibility of the US military, and forcing the invaders to sign the armistice agreement on July 27, 1953,” Xi said.
The Korean War is a key foundation story for the ruling Communist Party, which in recent years has been the target of US President Donald Trump, in a bitter row spanning trade, tech, human rights, and the status of Taiwan, which China says is an inviolable part of the mainland.
“Let the world know that ‘the people of China are now organised, and are not to be trifled with,” Xi said, quoting Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.
“Chinese people don’t create troubles, nor are we afraid of them,” Xi said to applause.
“We will never sit back and watch any damage to our national sovereignty… and we will never allow any force to invade or divide the sacred territory of the motherland.”
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced it had agreed to sell over one billion dollars’ worth of missiles to self-governing Taiwan, the sharpest potential flashpoint with US forces.
Message ‘directly addressed’ to US
The Korean War was the first and so far only time Chinese and US forces have engaged in large-scale direct combat.
According to the Chinese government, more than 197,000 Chinese soldiers died during the three-year war, which saw the US-led United Nations coalition pushed back to the 38th parallel bisecting the Korean Peninsula after China weighed in on the side of North Korea’s communist army.
With tensions again running high between Beijing and Washington, China is making much of the 70th anniversary of its forces entering the fight, both for domestic consumption as well as a warning to its superpower rivals.
Chinese state media have conducted daily interviews with Chinese veterans who survived the war during prime-time news over the past week.
An action-thriller “Sacrifice”, directed by three of the biggest names in Chinese cinema and depicting a small band of Chinese troops holding off US forces in the final days of the war-hit cinemas across the country on Friday.
“This should be seen as a message directly addressed to the United States, there is no ambiguity here”, Alice Ekman, an analyst specialising in China at the European Union Institute for Security Studies said before the speech.
“Xi is invoking the spirit of war in a broad sense.”
Strong Beijing-Pyongyang ties
China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past two years after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear activities.
Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have met five times since March 2018, even as nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have hit a standstill.
By commemorating the anniversary “China is declaring to the US that it was not afraid of the US in the past, and is still not afraid of the US now”, said Shi Yinhong, professor of international politics at Renmin University.
“It’s to prepare for a possible limited military conflict with the US”, Shi said.