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Air power given bigger role in China

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Japan names disputed islets

TOKYO — Japan on Friday gave names to five uninhabited islets in an island group at the center of a territorial dispute with China as part of efforts to reinforce its claim, sparking quick condemnation from Beijing.

The five islands, named after directions of the compass, are part of the group in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

Chinese and Japanese coast guard ships have regularly confronted each other in surrounding waters.

The government said that naming the islands was meant to raise public awareness that they belong to Japan.

“It's not just about the Senkaku issue. We are conducting a broader review of all remote islands,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

China immediately rejected the Japanese move, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang calling it “illegal and invalid.”

— Associated Press

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By Bloomberg News
Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 8:48 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's restructuring of the nation's military appears poised to take advantage of recent upgrades in fighter jet capabilities to give the nation's air force a more prominent role.

Chinese aircraft buzzed Japanese planes near disputed islands in May and June in two of the neighbors' closest brushes since World War II.

With the ditching of 1950s-era fighters in favor of planes with 1980s-level technology, the air force's strengthened resources are being twinned with the elevation of its leadership within China's military — there are now two representatives of the service on the top, 11-man Central Military Commission. The consequence for nations from Japan to its ally, the United States, is increased Cold War-style encounters over the western Pacific.

“The PLA has realized air superiority can expand defense space and improve defense flexibility, and it can also provide aerial protection for China's so-called three million square kilometers of ‘Blue Land,'” said retired army Colonel Yue Gang, referring to China's maritime sovereign claims.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force has an unprecedented presence in the military's leadership as a result of appointments that are part of “broader PLA efforts to improve the capability to conduct joint operations that involve all the services and to move beyond its history as a military dominated by ground force commanders,” said Phillip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington.

“China is trying to build a modern air force capable of defeating regional air forces and holding its own against the U.S.,” said Saunders.

The Pentagon in a June assessment said China's air force “is pursuing modernization on a scale unprecedented in its history and is rapidly closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities.”

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