CHINA - China is to set up its first joint operational command so that the world's largest military can respond faster and better to crises, amid simmering tensions on its surrounding seas and festering unrest in ethnic minority regions.
State-run China Daily newspaper reported on Friday, quoting a statement from the Defence Ministry, that the proposed system will be set up in "due course".
"Setting up the system is a basic requirement in an era of information, and the military has launched positive programmes in this regard," the news report said, without providing further details.
The ministry said the modernisation of China's armed forces is "not targeted at any country".
China is locked in territorial disputes with neighbouring countries, such as one with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Beijing also faces growing violence in border regions like Xinjiang and Tibet.
News of the proposed defence revamp followed a Japanese media report on Wednesday, citing senior Chinese military officials and other sources, that China was set to reorganise its seven military regions into five.
China now has seven military regions (known as da jun qu in Mandarin) in Beijing, Shenyang, Nanjing, Jinan, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Lanzhou.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said the five military regions would each have a joint operations command overseeing the army, navy and air force, and a strategic missile unit.
It is unclear from the China Daily report and the ministry's statement if such a change is indeed in the works, though observers say there have been clues from the Chinese Communist Party's policy summit held in November.
A reform plan endorsed by the top leaders urged the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army to "improve the combined combat command systems, push forward reform of training and logistics for joint combat operations".