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China today launched its largest ever tactical military exercise, involving 50,000 heavily-armored troops to improve the PLA's
long-distance mobility.

The exercise, which is to last for two months, has been named "Stride-2009" and aims to improve PLA's capacity of long-range projection. It will involve a division each from the Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou regional military commands, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

"In the unprecedented exercise, one of the PLA's major objectives will be to improve its capacity of long-range projection," the report said, citing the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, which is the world's largest military with 2.3 million soldiers.

"Unlike previous annual tactical exercises, the army divisions and their air units will be deployed in unfamiliar areas far from their garrison training bases by civilian rail and air transport," it said.

The division from northeast Shenyang Military Command will be transported to northwest Lanzhou Military Command. Troops from east Jinan Military Command and south Guangzhou Military Command will be exchanged.

The General Staff Headquarters, which have been preparing for the exercise for three months, will coordinate with the civilian airlines to use passenger and cargo flights to complement Air Force transport.

Western nations, particularly the United States, have been concerned with China's military build-up, especially in the light of annual double-digit growth in defence spending over most of the last 20 years.



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