Ex-missile force commander Wei Fenghe named defense minister

China | 19 Mar 2018 1:05 pm

China appointed a former missile force commander as its new defense minister amid lingering concerns over the goals of its rapid military modernization.

Lt. Gen. Wei Fenghe’s naming as the international face of China’s military was among a series of appointments by the ceremonial legislature on the penultimate day of its annual session.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi was reappointed as China’s top diplomat and also promoted to state counselor, while Zhao Kezhi was confirmed as minister of public security in charge of the police.

Chen Wenqing, a former top official in the ruling Communist Party’s graft-busting agency, remains minister of state security responsible for espionage and counterintelligence.

China has increasingly been deploying its intelligence agencies overseas to track down those accused of high-level corruption, along with other perceived regime opponents and critics who have moved abroad.

As defense minister, Wei is outranked by President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, and two vice chairmen, but will be the main interface between China’s 2 million-member armed forces and the rest of the world’s militaries.

China’s increased its military budget by 8.1 percent this year to about US$173 billion, making it again the world’s second-largest behind the U.S.

Wei was named head of the 2nd Artillery in 2012, then remained head of the missile command after it was renamed the Rocket Force in 2016 amid a reorganization of military units.

The head of the U.S. Strategic Command considers China’s ballistic missile program the world’s "most active and diverse.” It includes a range of short- and intermediate-range missile aimed at Taiwan, as well as road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the U.S. and its allies.-AP

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