China responds to rumored Marine Corps expansion

China Military
Yao Jianing

BEIJING, March 15 (ChinaMil) -- China plans to expand its Marine Corps from the current 20,000 to 100,000 troops in order to better protect the country's marine lifeline and rising overseas interests, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on March 13.

Some Marine Corps troops will be assigned overseas, including Djibouti and Gwadar Port of Pakistan, said the report.

The information bureau of China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Monday when answering a question raised by the Global Times that the expansion of the PLA Navy's Marine Corps relates to the reform of the Chinese military, which is being implemented steadily and more detailed information will be released in due time.

The South China Morning Post quoted an anonymous military source who said that two special operations brigades had already been incorporated into the PLA Navy's Marine Corps, taking the number of soldiers to 20,000 with more to come.

Another source said that "the PLA Navy Marine Corps will expand to 100,000 troops, including six brigades, to fulfill new national missions". He added that overall troop numbers of the PLA Navy would increase by 15 percent from the current 235,000.

An analyst said that the 100,000-person expansion sounded like nothing more than sheer guesswork. If China's Marine Corps were to have an expansion to 100,000 troops, that would account for 42.6 percent of the current 235,000 troops of the Navy, much more than 15 percent.

The South China Morning Post commented that the PLA's decision to expand the Marine Corps reflects its strategic transition from relying on large quantities of troops to win land battles to relying on highly specialized troops to deal with diverse security challenges.

The Hong Kong-based newspaper's report also mentioned that China is building a naval base in Djibouti but hasn't revealed how many troops the base will accommodate. Funded and built by Chinese enterprises, the Gwadar Port in Pakistan doesn't have any military facilities, but Chinese naval vessels are expected to be seen there in the near future, said the report.

The information bureau of China's Defense Ministry told Global Times that the support facilities in Djibouti will mainly used for rest and replenishment of the Chinese troops that perform missions of merchant ships escort in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somali coast, UN peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, while the construction of Gwadar Port is a commercial project under the framework of China-Pakistan economic and trade cooperation and is conducive to promoting prosperity and development in this region.

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