Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Rocket Force to protect national interests

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-05 08:11

And as Yang Yujun, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said at a recent press conference, the change won't alter China's defensive nuclear policy. Corroborating Yang, Shao says the Rocket Force can serve as a long-distance deterrent force and thus help China strictly adhere to its defensive policy, because it can protect global interests without seeking military bases overseas.

A common question asked by many netizens is: Why a Rocket Force and not a Strategic Rocket Force, like the one Russia has? "Because the Rocket Force includes both nuclear and conventional rocket forces," Shao says. "And the latter serve tactical instead of strategic purposes. During the Cold War, the US, too, had lots of tactical missile forces that were under battle zones' command."

Reviewing the rocket force management systems of other powers, Shao says: "As the first country to make and stockpile nuclear bombs, the US first assigned them to strategic bombers, which helped its strategic air force gather rich experience in managing strategic missiles ... Therefore, intercontinental missiles are under the management and command of the US Air Force, while the army manages middle- and short-range tactical missiles."

Since the Soviet Union lagged behind the US in aviation technology, it focused on arming missiles with nuclear weapons. When missiles were rather short-ranged and could be used only for tactical purposes, they were put under artillery command. In 1959, two years after it successfully launched the first intercontinental missile, the Soviet Union established the Strategic Rocket Force to manage the strategic missiles, while the tactical missiles remained under the artillery's command, Shao says.

The naming of the PLA Rocket Force is only part of the grand military reform. Shao says other reform measures, such as united fighting commanding systems, will help establish smooth coordination between the Rocket Force and other armed units in times of war.

As top leader Xi said, the Rocket Force will be a core force for strategic deterrence - strategically buttressing the country's position as a major power - and an important force upholding national security.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

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