Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

China appoints new defense minister

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The appointment of a new defense minister comes two weeks before a presidential election in Taiwan, which China considers it one of its provinces. (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

China appointed Dong Jun, until then head of the navy, as new defense minister on Friday, ending a two-month vacancy to this strategic position after the unexplained dismissal of his predecessor.

Li Shangfu, newly appointed in March, has not been seen in public since August 29. The now ex-Minister of Defense had visited Russia and Belarus a few weeks earlier. Without any explanation, he was abruptly dismissed in October.

The Ministry of Defense has since refused to clearly indicate who was acting as interim manager. the head of the largest army in the world.

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Without any explanation, Li Shangfu was suddenly dismissed in October from his post as Minister of Defense. (File photo)

Dong Jun was named defense minister, state television reported tersely, citing a decision by the standing committee of the National People's Congress, China's parliament.

The channel did not give any details on this decision endorsed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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Dong Jun, whose Chinese characters can be translated as supervisor of the army, was until now the commander of the navy, a position he had held since August 2021. He was replaced in recent days by Hu Zhongming.

Dong Jun was previously a vice-in-charge of the Chinese military's Southern Command, which covers the South China Sea, where Beijing has territorial disputes with neighboring countries.

Born in 1961, Dong Jun was once the director of the Navy's training department.

This promotion is actually a surprise. Analysts expected Liu Zhenli, a 59-year-old general and current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to become the new defense minister.

He notably spoke last week with his American counterpart, General Charles Q. Brun Jr., during the first high-level call in more than a year between military personnel from the two leading world powers.

The appointment of a new defense minister comes two weeks before a presidential election in Taiwan, which China considers one of its provinces.

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China has deployed a large number of ships around Taiwan. Here, a patrol ship in the strait separating Beijing and Taipei. (Archive photo)

According to Taipei, Beijing has increased military pressure around the island in recent months as the vote approaches.

China says it favors “peaceful” reunification with the territory where the approximately 23 million inhabitants are governed by a democratic system, but it has never given up to use military force to achieve this.

The Taiwanese question is extremely sensitive in China and the authorities regularly send warnings to the United States, Taipei's primary supporter, against any decision perceived as a green light to formal independence.

Tensions have also been high in recent weeks with the Philippines in the disputed China Sea, where skirmishes between ships from the two countries have multiply.

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A Chinese Coast Guard vessel photographed April 23, 2023 from the Philippine Coast Guard vessel in the disputed South China Sea.

The appointment of Dong Jun, from the navy, is a sign that Beijing considers the South China Sea as a new priority area, said political scientist Wen-Ti Sung, an expert on the region at the University, on X (ex-Twitter). Australian National.

Dong Jun's designation comes after a reshuffle at the head of the Chinese army unit responsible for strategic missiles, including nuclear weapons.

In July, the authorities announced that they would provide this unit with new management without explaining this change.

Media then reported a corruption investigation involving its former boss, who was not seen in public for weeks.

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