China's President Hu Jintao sent a stark warning to his country's rivals today calling for the navy to "prepare for war".
The defence ministry said the comments were not aimed at any particular nation but Mr Hu's speech to military leaders in Beijing comes amid growing tension in the Asia-Pacific region.
China claims all of the oil and gas rich South China Sea, as does Taiwan, while four other countries declare ownership of parts of it, with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing Chinese forces of increasing aggression there. In the speech he said the navy should "accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security and world peace".
He added: "Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building."