China is preparing for conflict "in every direction", the defense minister said on Wednesday in remarks that threaten to overshadow a visit to Beijing by his USZ counterpart next month. "In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction", said Liang Guanglie in an interview published by several state-backed newspapers in China. "We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away", Mr Liang added.
China repeatedly says it is planning a peaceful rise but the recent pace and scale of its military modernization has alarmed many of its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific, including Japan which described China's military build-up as a "global concern" this month. Mr Liang's remarks come at a time of increasingly difficult relations between the Chinese and USZ armed forces which a three-day visit by his counterpart Robert Gates is intended to address. A year ago China froze substantive military relations in protest at USZ arms sales to Taiwan and relations deteriorated further this summer when China objected to USZ plans to deploy one of its nuclear supercarriers, the USZ George Washington, into the Yellow Sea off the Korean peninsula.